Monday, April 16, 2012

Imagine a Mirror!

"No, but I used to like walking backwards", Rosemary said in response to my question if she used to walk around with mirrors held horizontal as a child, so as to imagine walking on the ceiling.  Ah yes, another way to experience sensory perceptions from a time long ago. Both required curiosity and courage. It does allow you to see things differently and gain a better perspective. Nice to see  the artist Anish Kapoor using the medium of mirrors in the lofty realm of fine art.

Sky Mirror
Rockefeller Center NYC 2006 
Anish Kapoor
photo by Brad Patrick at en.Wikipedia

To think that we started with gazing into a bowl of water in prehistoric times, we've come a long way baby.  But can you believe that it has been only 177 years that we've had mirrors as we are used to today? Prior to this, mirrors were enormously rare and expensive, so the populous had to make do with the puddle.  It was the old 1% deal.

6000 BC from Anatolia, Turkey

These polished and burnished slabs of rock may have been wetted to help with the reflection. Copper mirrors were found in 4000 BC Mesopotamia.  

Early Chinese octagon mirror, front and back

Bronze followed suit in China and India c. 2000 BC, which required periodic polishing by the 99%.  

Egyptian,  New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC)

This one could use a little elbow grease, too!

43 x 81 cm
Homage to Carlo Mollino (1937)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Have an instant great figure, courtesy of Venus de Milo!  Art and architecture made huge strides in ancient Greece, but a bronze hand-held mirror was likely all that Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty ever owned.

Mirror, Roman

Metal-coated glass was invented in modern-day Lebanon around 100 AD. Later, the Romans made the leap to using molten lead on blown glass. Cleopatra (69-30 BC) likely enjoyed reflecting her renowned beauty with this new technology via Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. 

Mirror, Middle Ages

People muddled with their murky mirrors in the middle ages until the big breakthrough of glass-blowing in the 14th century. Little pieces of broken blown glass were used as convex mirrors, which seemed an improvement over the unevenness of lumpy metal.  They didn't mind, probably because they had to worry about plague rather than obesity as we do nowadays! 

I like the connection those early mirrors have with modern day security mirrors, which I enjoy using in residential interiors. 

Girandole mirror
England/America 1800's
giltwood, mercury, gesso
4'11"h  x  11"d  x  45"w
David Skinner Antiques

Really, wasn't this just a fore-runner of the security mirrors commonplace at convenience markets today? Likely the homeowner was ensuring that the silver wasn't pocketed!

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) 
Vitruvian Man, 1487
shown with mirror writing

Leonardo was fascinated with mirrors.  He suggested that artists use mirrors to compare their work with the reflection of what they were painting from.  This was a technique that I was taught in art school, and I use it to look at my art or interiors with more objectivity.  It's like flipping your right brain with your left brain.  Leonardo frequently wrote backwards, in what is called 'mirror writing'.  It's easy to read if you hold it up to a mirror, as all schoolchildren know.

Venetian Giltwood Mirror c. 1685
112"h  x 48"h
Richard Shapiro Antiques and Works of Art

In the 16th century, the Italian island of Murano, near Venice, became the most important center of mirror production.  Methods were perfected using an amalgam of tin and mercury over ever larger sheets of glass. It was not until 1835, when Justus von Leibig discovered how to thinly layer silver onto glass, that we came to have the mirrors that we take for granted today! Nowadays less expensive processes and materials allow the mass-production of mirrors to the minions. 

The imperfect reflections of ancient mirrors are amusement for us today - we don't know how hard things were in the old days! These purposely warped mirrors are good to have around to keep your sense of humor intact -  doctors agree that a  good laugh is important to your physical and mental health!

vacuum deposited silver metal surface on polyester sheet
84" x 56"

Here's a cool, inexpensive product (about $170)  just ripe for imaginative minds.

design Marta Laudani - Marco Romanelli
100 x 8 x 100 cm
Hanging mirror in 6mm - thick curved silver-backed glass 
Fiam Italia

This mirror would nicely accommodate someone with multiple personalities.  Or, the planes of glass could suggest a past, present, and a future. The largest central area could be the present, right now on April 16th, 2012. Indeed, walking backwards in time, we can see that we've come a long way since peering into a pool!

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