Mirror, mirror…

It’s strange to think that there was a time when only the wealthiest owned a mirror, or an object meant to reflect one’s image. Mirrors are ancient tools – yet the thin piece of glass with a layer of reflective metal behind it that we think of as a mirror is a relatively recent invention. And it’s only in the last century that owning a mirror became commonplace among the masses. This meant, of course, that for the most part, humans throughout history were only able to view their person in its entirety on occasion. What has this done to our society? How have we changed as our reflections greet us (one might say bombard us) everywhere we turn?…

The 1st glass mirrors (only owned by the very rich) were not flat, like those we are used to today. They were rounded, much like the circular mirrors in parking lots and alleys that allow us to see oncoming traffic. Which means that people’s reflections were much distorted, like the eery clown mirrors in amusement parks. Perhaps this distortion explains Mr. Arnolfini, in my opinion, one of the creepiest looking subjects in all of art history. What else could explain this man’s deliberate and goofy look? His pallor and giant hat? Perhaps when he looked in his small rounded mirror his hat appeared normal-sized, his long, skinny nose petite and pleasing. Maybe his eyebrows seemed thicker in that mirror, compelling him to pluck himself bald. It’s no coincidence that these mirrors became popular at the same time as the emergence of the portrait when self-obsession became de rigueur…

I recently gave my 2-yr-old daughter a hand mirror so she could examine her nether-regions. Thank you 2nd-wave feminists for the inspiration. She was shocked and delighted – I was a bit concerned we’d have a vaginally-related Greek tragedy on our hands. Narcissus’ reflection had nothing on this tiny twat.

Published by imworriedmytherapisthatesme

I'm a history-PhD-turned-stay-at-home-mom of three. When I'm not microwaving Trader Joe's meals for my kids, breaking up fights and wiping butts, I like to paint and write. To cope with the endless hours I'm spending with my son doing virtual school, I've abandoned my gouache paints for the more portable, less messy tried but true, paper and ink. While he learns to read to 20 floating heads on his screen, I sit on a tiny chair, at a tiny table pretending to be a productive adult.

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