From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A mirror is an object that reflects light or sound in a way that preserves much of its original quality subsequent to its contact with the mirror. Some mirrors also filter out some wavelengths, while preserving other wavelengths in the reflection. This is different from other light-reflecting objects that do not preserve much of the original wave signal other than color and diffuse reflected light. The most familiar type of mirror is the plane mirror, which has a flat surface. Curved mirrors are also used, to produce magnified or diminished images or focus light or simply distort the reflected image.
Mirrors are commonly used for personal grooming or admiring oneself (in which case the archaic term looking-glass is sometimes still used), decoration, and architecture. Mirrors are also used in scientific apparatus such as telescopes and lasers, cameras, and industrial machinery. Most mirrors are designed for visible light; however, mirrors designed for other types of waves or other wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation are also used, especially in non-optical instruments.
Painters depicting someone gazing into a mirror often also show the person's reflection. This is a kind of abstraction—in most cases the angle of view is such that the person's reflection should not be visible. Similarly, in movies and still photography an actor or actress is often shown obstensibly looking at him- or herself in the mirror, and yet the reflection faces the camera. In reality, the actor or actress sees only the camera and its operator in this case, not his own reflection.
The mirror is the central device in some of the greatest of European paintings:
- Édouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère
- Titian's Venus with a Mirror
- Jan Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait
- Pablo Picasso's Girl before a Mirror (1932)
- Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas, wherein the viewer is both the watcher (of a self-portrait in progress) and the watched, and the many adaptations of that painting in various media
- Veronese's Venus with a Mirror
Mirrors have been used by artists to create works and hone their craft:
- Filippo Brunelleschi discovered linear perspective with the help of the mirror.
- Leonardo da Vinci called the mirror the "master of painters". He recommended, "When you wish to see whether your whole picture accords with what you have portrayed from nature take a mirror and reflect the actual object in it. Compare what is reflected with your painting and carefully consider whether both likenesses of the subject correspond, particularly in regard to the mirror."
- Many self-portraits are made possible through the use of mirrors:
- Without a mirror, the great self-portraits by Dürer, Frida Kahlo, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh could not have been painted.
- M. C. Escher used special shapes of mirrors in order to achieve a much more complete view of his surroundings than by direct observation in Hand with Reflecting Sphere (also known as Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror).
Mirrors are sometimes necessary to fully appreciate art work:
- István Orosz's anamorphic works are images distorted such that they only become clearly visible when reflected in a suitably shaped and positioned mirror.
Other artistic mediums
Some other contemporary artists use mirrors as the material of art:
- Makyoh is Japanese "magic mirror" art, in which a mirror projects an image with reflected light
- Paintings on mirror surfaces (such as silkscreen printed glass mirrors)
- Sculptures comprised entirely or in part of mirrors
- Special mirror installations
Mirrors are frequently used in interior decoration and as ornaments:
- Mirrors, typically large and unframed, are frequently used in interior decoration to create an illusion of space and amplify the apparent size of a room. They come also framed in a variety of forms, such as the pier glass and the overmantle mirror.
- Mirrors are used also in some schools of feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice of placement and arrangement of space, to achieve harmony with the environment.
- The softness of old mirrors is sometimes replicated by contemporary artisans for use in interior design. These reproduction antiqued mirrors are works of art and can bring color and texture to an otherwise hard, cold reflective surface. It is an artistic process that has been attempted by many and perfected by few.
- A decorative reflecting sphere of thin metal-coated glass, working as a reducing wide-angle mirror, is sold as a Christmas ornament called a bauble.
- Illuminated rotating disco balls covered with small mirrors are used to cast moving spots of light around a dance floor.
- The hall of mirrors, commonly found in amusement parks, is an attraction in which a number of distorted mirrors are used to produce unusual reflections of the visitor.
- Mirrors are employed in kaleidoscopes, personal entertainment devices invented in Scotland by Sir David Brewster.
- Mirrors are often used in magic to create an illusion. One effect is called Pepper's ghost.
- Mirror mazes, often found in amusement parks as well, contain large numbers of mirrors and sheets of glass. The idea is to navigate the disorientating array without bumping into the walls. Mirrors in attractions like this are often made of plexiglass as to assure that they do not break.
Film and television
- Candyman is a horror movie about mirrors
- Mirrors is a horror movie about mirrors
- Poltergeist III features mirrors as a major theme
Mirrors play a powerful role in cultural literature.
- The Holy Bible passage, 1 Corinthians 13:12: "Through a Glass Darkly" references a dim mirror image or poor mirror reflection
- The magical objects employed in the Harry Potter series include:mirrors: the Mirror of Erised and two-way mirrors
- Narcissus of Greek mythology wastes away while gazing, self-admiringly, at his reflection in water
- In Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, a portrait serves as a magical mirror that reflects the true visage of the perpetually youthful protagonist, as well as the effect on his soul of each sinful act
- In the European fairy tale, Snow White, the evil queen asks, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall... who's the fairest of them all?"
- Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass is one of the best-loved uses of mirrors in literature. The text itself utilizes a narrative that mirrors that of its predecessor, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
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