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Mirror, Mirror

 
 

through a glass, darkly

   

 

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
1 Corinthians 13:12

 

The King James version, so lovely in language, scripture which we quote here merely for our purpose, for the sentence reads like the finest poetic description of romantic love: to glimpse at first, to have only an inkling, and then all of love revealed, to know and to be known, in the Biblical sense and more...

 

We’ve been thinking design, but interior decoration for the soul.  Chairs may be iconic, couches sleek and sexy or overstuffed and comfy, tables all legs, but with mirrors we can dream, step into other worlds, see ourselves, see all of love, and of course, open up rooms and create the illusion of space.

 

Illusion, appearance, reflection, truth.  The looking glass, the mirror, revealer of the truth unvarnished, will tell us who is the fairest of us all.  In the beginning, humans looked at themselves in water; later they stared into the polished darkness of obsidian and other stones.  Pliny tells of mirrors of carbuncle and emerald that the emperor Nero possessed.  Small, rough glass mirrors date to Sidon in the first century A.D.  The Greeks, the Romans, and the Egyptians all produced mirrors of metal.  On the Venetian island of Murano, skilled glass artisans have been making mirrors for centuries—they were the first to perfect the elusive art of making clear sheets of glass, originally using a tin-mercury amalgam as a backing, the silvering process being developed by a German only in the 19th century.

 


The Arnolfini Portrait, Jan van Eyck, 1434,
Oil on Oak, National Gallery, London
(Detail at top)

 

Revealer of secrets.  Mirrors are a recurring metaphor in art, as in Jan van Eyck’s famous Arnolfini Portrait of 1434.  This painting is perhaps about a secret and its revelation.  And not the obvious, the woman, her possible debated pregnancy, the marriage, but instead perhaps what the convex mirror on the wall (detail at top) between the Arnolfini couple reveals.  The artist David Hockney’s and the physicist Charles Falco’s controversial theory about the use of optical instruments in art, the Hockney-Falco thesis, posits that perhaps van Eyck, who is noted for the intricacy of detail in his paintings and brilliant use of perspective, used a convex mirror as an optical aid, which is one way of seeing with such detail.  And perhaps the artist is here revealing his secret, the central position of the mirror, its revelation of two more people in the room, one of them possibly van Eyck himself, the other perhaps the viewer. The mirror, the oculus in the room.  A metaphor for the art of painting itself.

 

 


The Music Lesson, Johannes Vermeer,
CLICK image for detail view

 

The use of optical aids in art has a long history and Vermeer whose use of the camera obscura is generally accepted created one of the loveliest and most subtle paintings with a mirror, The Music Lesson (1662-1665).  (Click above to see the painting in detail.) The emotional interaction between the two people becomes tangible only after the eyes are drawn upward by the strong geometries of tiles and arabesques of carpet to the mirror, and we then see that the tilt of the woman’s head is much more marked than we would have thought at first, and it is only then that the mysterious and harmonious tension between the two lovers becomes palpable.

  

 

Buy: That one fabulous mirror at 1stdibs.com

 

Explore: Coco Chanel's flat with its marvelous mirrors

 

Tags:  design  art  music  chanel

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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