How To Paint A French Trumeau Mirror

July 6, 2024

Vintage French trumeau (pronounced troo-moh) mirrors are a sight to behold, but they're also few and far between here in the U.S. As such, the price tag corresponds to their scarcity in the wild.   

French trumeau Louis XVI mirror.

I was lucky enough to find a vintage trumeau mirror at a great price, but then took it upon myself to give it a makeover. Let's check it out!

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thrifted vintage gold trumeau mirror.

I  found this gorgeous, vintage trumeau mirror at a local pop up vintage warehouse sale and immediately fell in love with it. While it cost $38.00, which is a bit high for my thrifting budget (but overall a fabulously cheap price), I couldn't resist. The seller even said she had a hard time parting with it because it was so beautiful!  

I brought it home and began some research which revealed that a trumeau is a mirror that has a painted, or carved, panel above or below the glass in the same frame. Just. Like. Mine.

trumeau mirror reflecting a white living room couch.

According to "The Art of the Trumeau Mirror":

Trumeau is an architectural term designating space between vertical elements in an interior such as space between doors, windows, or pilasters. And in the century prior to the French Revolution it was much in vogue to fill the space with mirror in order to reflect light. 

Nowadays, Trumeau is the decorative arts word for a mirror with a picture on top. During the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, large mirrors mounted within the paneling over a mantel or between windows would often have a painting incorporated above. This is what is referred to as a Trumeau Mirror.

Louis XVI gold trumeau mirror with painting.

I've seen similar mirrors referred to as Louis XVI mirrors. Therefore it looks like the terms "Louis XVI mirror" and "trumeau mirror" are somewhat interchangeable. I found this one for sale online for $2,500. You'll notice it has the same type of painting in the top portion as my mirror.  

Victorian artwork gold trumeau mirror.

Notice the similarities? My painting depicts a scene from the Victorian 1700's where the women are wearing hoop skirts and the men are wearing frock coats. The bow on top of the trumeau miror is called a French bow. The bow style was fashionable in late 19th century France.   

antique Louis XVI trumeau mirror.

While I was thrilled to find out that my mirror was indeed a trumeau mirror, I prefer the ones with appliques, like the one above, rather than the ones with paintings at the top, like mine. Hence my wanting to paint it and add appliques.
 
vintage trumeau mirror dust cover back of mirror

I have no idea how old the mirror is, but clearly it's quite old. I think you'll agree after seeing the condition on the back side. The dust cover paper is so tissue-paper-thin it's literally disintegrating. Unfortunately, there's no stamp on the back to indicate where it's from. Its weight is substantial.  
 
shabby chic bow rose wreath applique.

My hope was to add some type of applique (a.k.a. onlay) over the area where the painting was situated. After searching online I found this gorgeous Shabby Chic Bow Rose Wreath Applique Onlay and knew I'd found my answer. When it arrived in the mail I did a happy dance because it was so perfect for this project!

heart and scroll corner appliques

The first applique only filled up a small portion of the open space, so I opted for another two appliques to help fill in the rest of the blank space. Since the first applique had hearts and bows, I chose these heart and scroll corner appliques I found on eBay. You can find the exact same hearts and scroll onlays on Amazon.

three appliques for trumeau mirror makeover

I played around with where to place the appliques and decided on this arrangement. It's displayed on a neutral piece of canvas which I had measured and cut to fit the space, now covering the original artwork. 

The only question now was how to apply the applique while still leaving the beautiful painting and glass intact (in order to preserve my right to enjoy it in its original glory at a later date). I knew I would have to be creative.

9 x 12 wood art panels.

I decided to use a wood art panel from the craft store to cover the original artwork and serve as the base for my applique addition. 


I measured the space I needed to cover the painting (9" x 7.5") and the closest panel size I could find was 9" x 12". So I picked up a 4 pack of wood art panels at Michaels. You can also get a six pack of the same size wood art panels on Amazon. 


Since I already had the canvas cut to fit the space, I used it as a template and traced it onto the wood panel.  

wood art panel clamped onto work table.

Then my husband cut the wood panel with a jig saw according to my canvas template.


He began by clamping the wood panel onto the work table.

Black & Decker jig saw

Once secured, he used a Black & Decker jig saw to cut the wood.

Black & Decker detail sander.

He then used a Black & Decker detail sander  (link is to an updated model) to sand down the edges and corners in an attempt to make the panel fit perfectly in the space over the painting.


It took a boatload of attempts at sanding the panel and its corners before it finally fit J-U-S-T right! 

vintage gold trumea mirror with art panel wood insert.

Here is the wood insert in place, covering the painting. I worried about how to secure the panel to the glass, but it fit so snugly that it wasn't necessary to use any type of glue or adhesive.

Now it was time for the artsy part -- in other words, figuring out how to make the wood insert and wooden appliques look like they were original to the vintage trumeau mirror. So I got to work.

Louis XVI trumeau mirror gray paint gold appliques.

 

I noticed during my research that the trumeau mirrors I loved the most were the ones painted some shade of gray, with gold appliques and other gold details. The above mirror sold on an art and antiques website. The description said it was circa 1770. I love it! 

I found many other similar examples which together became my blueprint for painting and transforming my own trumeau mirror.

 

 

HOW TO PAINT A TRUMEAU MIRROR

1. Pick a paint color and get your brushes ready. I used Behr Marquee in Dolphin Gray (leftover sample from our kitchen remodel). 

I also used a very delicate paint brush since I was only going to be painting narrow swaths of the mirror's frame with the gray paint. I  used a paintbrush that came with a paint-by-number set. If you've ever done a paint-by-number, you know those paint brushes are t-i-n-y thin.

The brush(es) you use will depend on the style and size of your trumeau mirror.  

painters-tape-on-gold-frame.

2. Using painter's tape, tape off any areas you don't want touched by the paint. I focused on taping off the inner gold framework, leaving the outer frame free to be painted.

3. Dry brush the paint onto the trumeau mirror's frame. To dry brush, just dip the brush in the paint and then blot it on a paper towel, removing most of the paint, before applying it to the mirror's frame anywhere you feel would benefit from it.

painted-frame-in-progress-on-top-of-newspaper

Wanting to give the frame an overall distressed look, I left parts of it unpainted.

wood-art-panel-painted-in-Behr-Dolphin-Gray

4. If you're using a wood panel like I did, paint the panel the same color as the frame.

5. Age your appliques by first painting them white, followed by some wax in Antique, followed by Rub 'n Buff in any gold flavor of your choice. I used Rub 'n Buff in gold leaf.

French-furniture-gold-painted-appliques-French-wreath-roses

I was going for that old world patina effect, as if the appliques were always a part of the trumeau mirrror -- and I think I achieved it! 

6. Adhere the wooden appliques to the wood panel with E-6000 glue or Gorilla Glue. I used E-6000. 

French-gold-bow-trumeau-mirror.

7. Once the glue dries, insert the wood panel over the artwork to complete the trumeau mirror makeover.  

gold-painted-French-bow.

I went a step further and painted the French bow on top of the trumeau mirror with Rub 'n Buff in gold leaf to brighten things up. 

trumeau-mirror-on-French-mantel

And here's my painted trumeau mirror sitting pretty on the living room fireplace mantel!

gray-trumeau-tall-mirror.




The trumeau mirror looks right at home sharing the mantel with a French urn filled with a ball topiary.


My vintage-inspired distressed Virgin Mary statue, adorned with vintage rosaries, sits on top of a thrifted pedestal I painted white many years ago.


No French trumeau mirror display would be complete without an ornate altar candlestick and candle. Trumeau mirrors were originally used to reflect light, including candlelight.  

tall-trumeau-mirror-on mantel-with-Virgin-Mary-statue.

It's fitting that the mirror is over the fireplace -- just like where the original trumeau mirrors were displayed in the 1700's.   

tall-French-mirror-gold-gray-frame-French-bow.

While I love gold mirrors and frames, the gold on this trumeau mirror was too dark for my taste. (The edited photos make the original gold look much brighter than it really is.) Adding the gray paint made some of the gold accents really pop, especially coupled with the Rub 'n Buff in gold leaf I used to paint the French bow.   

Whenever I get tired of the DIY applique wood panel I can just pry it loose and remove it, revealing the original painting.

You can read all about some of my other Rub 'N Buff DIY makeover projects here:




Well, that's it for today, friends! 
I hope you enjoyed reading about 
 How to Paint A French Trumeau Mirror 
 and that I've inspired you in some way. 

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French trumeau Louis XVI mirror.
 
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