Reflections on a reflection device…
The first way anyone would have been able to contemplate his or her image would have been as a reflection in a pool of still water…like told in the Greek mythical story of Narcissus who saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus drowned.
“Narcissus” by Caravaggio – circa 1597
It is amazing how in early antiquity mirrors were a common everyday accessory, from a simple piece of polished obsidian to elaborate hand mirrors with decorative handles.
Egyptian hand mirror in gold foil, silver, glass, alabaster, obsidian, porphyritic diorite – ca. 1479-1425 B.C. Thebes
Woman with Mirror, Greece, 4th Century BC
Ancient Greek mirror with a Support in the Form of a Draped Woman, mid-5th century B.C.
The Venetian Republic held the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors, the process of creating mirror on glass became more and more refined. Colbert, Louis the XIV’s minister, enticed several workers from Venice to make mirrors at the “Manufacture Royale de Glaces de Miroirs” for the “Hall of Mirrors” at the Palace of Versailles in the 17th century.
“La Grande Galerie” in the Palace of Versailles
Grand mirrored surfaces are very much part of our urban landscapes, as the exterior of a building will constantly change its look by what is reflected in it. One World Trade Center in New York:
I particularly like Anish Kapoor’s giant mirrored sculpture in Chicago:
Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” sculpture in Chicago – 2006
On a smaller scale, powder compacts were an integral part of the content of a lady’s handbag.
Photograph by Horst P. Horst – 1935
So much so that all the great jewelers made elaborate and now highly collectible powder compacts:
Vintage compact by Cartier
Vintage compact by Verdura
You can still whip out an elegant compact today, Estee Lauder proposes many powder compacts for reasonable prices, one of my favorites:
Estee Lauder refillable powder “Alligator” compact