Could you possibly imagine living your life without knowing how you look? Without ever seeing your own reflection? “Recognizing” ourselves in the mirror every morning when we get up is almost a ritual act of stating one’s identity. We see our reflection, therefore we are. Perhaps this is why we love the infamous ‘selfies’ so much – they give us the illusion of controlling our public selves and feed our inner need of self-cognition (they sometimes feed our vanity, too).
In the past, people sought their reflection in water – streams, ponds, pools, rivers etc. Ancient Egyptians used round metals, such as copper, to produce mirrors. Ancient Romans used metal, glass and lead. In the 14th century there were convex (or curved) mirrors. In 1835, a German chemist, Justus von Liebig, created the first modern mirror-sliver glass mirror (source).
I’ve decided to focus today on two themes from the world of myth/popular mythology, namely the story of Narcissus and the mirror theme in “Snow-white”.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Boeotia who was punished for his pride and vanity by the godess of revenge, Nemesis. Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection – and knowning that he won’t be able to fulfill his heart’s desire, he drowned himself.
Below you can see one of the most beautiful representations of the myth, a painting by Caravaggio (ca. 1594):
For this theme, I’ve chosen a few mirrors that had some water quality – not only in their surfaces but also in their frames:
The other theme is the magic mirror in Disney’s “Snow-white”. Who doesn’t remember the ominous: “Mirror, mirror on the wall/ Who’s the fairest of them all?” The mirror (who had an imprisoned spirit inside) always answered – “You, my Queen”, but at some point described a creature more beautiful – Snow-white. This fact enraged the Evil Queen and she ordered her Huntsman to kill the girl.
This is how the mirror looked like in the animated version:
And this is how I’d see it:
In both cases, mirror was a tool to satisfy one’s vanity. When I hear this word, I always recall the final scene of “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997), starring Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video, as it’s a spoiler. Watch the whole film – it’s worth it.
Which one is your favourite?