Synopses & Reviews
Everything I needed to know about Fox and Grapes mirror, I knew the moment I first I saw it” What antiques restorer Maryalice Huggins knew when she stumbled across the mirror at a country auction in Rhode Island was this: She was besotted. Rococo and huge (more than eight feet tall), the mirror was one of the most unusual objects she had ever seen. Huggins had to have it. The frames elaborate carvings were almost identical to a famous eighteenth-century design. Could this be eighteenth-century American? That would make it rare indeed. But in the rarefied world of American antiques, an object is not significant unless you can prove where its from. Huggins set out to trace the origins of her magnificent mirror. Fueled with the delightfully obsessive spirit of Susan Orleans The Orchid Thief, Aesops Mirror follows Huggins on her quest as she goes up against the leading lights of the very male world of high-end antiques and dives into the historical archives. And oh, what she finds there! The mirror was likely passed down through generations of the illustrious Brown family of Providence, Rhode Island. Throughout history, mirrors have been seen as having mystical powers, enabling those who peer into them to connect the past and the future. In Aesops Mirror, Maryalice Huggins does just that, creating a marvelous, one-of-kind book about a marvelous, one of-a-kind American treasure.
A surprisingly complex story of American beginnings . . . In an age in which arts bottom line is generally thought to be the bottom line, the book attests to the true reasons we cherish rare objects that have come down to us from the past: the way they elicit our desire to possess their beauty and their mystery.” Benjamin Moser, Harpers Magazine
“Maryalice Huggins has mirror fever, and her quest to understand one special antique mirror makes great reading—part history, part love story, and an altogether fascinating look at the secretive, seductive world of rare things.” —Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief
“Mixing antiquarian know-how with narrative suspense, Maryalice Huggins has somehow transformed an obsession with an antique mirror into an erudite nail-biter.” —Billy Collins
“I was mesmerized—not just by the history behind this story, but also by the passion that drove Huggins to delve into the past, and into herself, to figure out why we love what we love, and why finally understanding our passions is always bittersweet.” —Sara Nelson, author of So Many Books, So Little Time
“A rollicking read.” —The Providence Journal
“Huggins's passion for objects and history is contagious . . . [Aesops Mirror is] a short, suspense-filled whodunit, and you will know every name in it!” —Maine Antique Digest
“A knowledgeable frolic through the high-end world of the buying and selling of early American decorative arts . . . So-called experts are deliciously proved fallible in this informative, creative exegesis on how antiques attain their value.”—Publishers Weekly
“This entry will appeal most to readers interested in the world of antiques, who are sure to admire Hugginss tenacity in a notoriously male-dominated line of work.”—Booklist
“A surprisingly complex story of American beginnings . . . In an age in which arts bottom line is generally thought to be the bottom line, the book attests to the true reasons we cherish rare objects that have come down to us from the past: the way they elicit our desire to possess their beauty and their mystery.” —Benjamin Moser, Harpers Magazine
“Its ‘Art Roadshow meets detective novel.”—Better Homes and Gardens, a “Good Read” selection
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR WRITING
Falling in love at first sight with a mirror in a Rhode Island auction, Maryalice Huggins sets out to discover its history and learns that it was likely passed down through generations of the illustrious Brown family. Certain of the mirror's prestige, she goes up against the leading lights of the fascinating high-end antiques world and discovers that the value of a beautiful object and its market value are not the same thing at all. As Huggins concludes her "delightful" (Jacki Lyden, NPR) quest of sleuthing, research, and obsession, she learns the true meaning of art.
About the Author
Maryalice Huggins is a restorer and gilder of antique mirrors. She has worked for museums, interior decorators, and private collectors. She lives in Middletown, Rhode Island.