I was planning to move on quickly, and start writing about many more ‘new’ mirrors, to populate this blog with more examples and interesting cases to look into. But as often happens with me, I instead started to dig deeper in the previous materials, find additional details, and indulge into all sorts of distractions and tangents; alas.
The other day I wrote small piece about the lost painting of Van Eyck, and how no one understands its content. And about the fact that there is a mistake there in the depiction of reflection (not clear by whom, by van Eyck himself, or by a copyist). One attentive reader (ropher, to be precise) pointed out that there is no error there. Of course, I don’t like to be pointed that I am wrong, so I ventured into experiments and re-enactments, with mirrors and dolls:
I also started to play with all sorts of filters and adjustments. Meanwhile, I also found a a large copy of the painting by van Haecht (the solorized fragment of this copy starts the posting):
Incidentally, I still believe that there is an error here, and that the image of the girl in the mirror is wrong (her right arm, depicted in the mirror, is turned in the wrong direction). But for now, as they say, it’s not even important.
Because in the process of playing with the copy of this painting (of very poor quality, I should add), I made my ‘discovery’. Now I know what the author wanted to tell us with this work, sorta. And now I shall share this discovery with you.
A couple of warnings:
– It may all seem like an absolute nonsense (both in itself and because of the very poor quality of reproduction, which doesn’t allow any conclusions to be made anyway), and as such, ignored;
– I have requested a better quality copy from the museum, and when (and if) I will get it, it may become crystal clear that all my allegations are, well, allegations;
However, my latest experiences of dealing with “mirrors in art” make me believe that at least some of my conclusions may be ‘not complete @#!$hit’ (*). I mean, I can not be 100% certain about this particular work, but I can at least show several similar examples.
So, mirror, mirror on the wall shows us that instead of the girl’s head we see in the reflection her skull:
And that altogether it is supposed to be a condemnation of what is called Vanity.
The image above is made using the filter “night vision camera”, which, I think, shows the skull most strikingly. But I have many more other versions too.
Here is the solarized picture – we see the ‘head’ remains to be white in the reflection (it should be ‘black’, as the rest of the body):
Here is the filter called “old photo”, and there we also see two black dots (eyes?), even more apparently than in the “night camera” version:
Here is the original coloration:
I can’t say something certain about the copy of this allegedly Van Eyck on the painting by van Haecht:
I ‘obviously’ see the skull there, but can not really prove it (though I see the same mistake with her arms, by the way).
The article about Vanity tells about the concept itself (which existed long before Christianity, but became the mortal mortal sin, pride, only there), and also about traditions of its depiction in art (from the Whore of Babylon to the sheer variety of ways in which various (naked) divas were reclining, some of them with mirrors). These scenes often included an image of the Devil, or Death).
Below are just a few pictures related to the topic:
Hieronymus Bosch – Fragment from the panel Seven Deadly Sins showing Pride (Superbia) (c.1500)
Jacques le Grant – Le livre des bonnes moeurs (c.1470)
Lucas Furtenagel – Hans Burgkmair and his wife Anna Vienne (1527)
Hans Memling – Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation (1485)
Monogrammist M. – Vanity and Death, or MORTALIA FACTA PERIBUNT (Mortal achievements will be destroyed) (c. 1560)
And these are just a few examples, of the works I have already told about, or at least mentioned in the earlier postings; there are many more of them, of course.
Incidentally, the Wikipedia article on Vanity is illustrated with quite a symbolic image:-
Charles Allan Gilbert – All is Vanity (1892)
(*) it’s a quote, or rather an allusion, to the famous story, about differences in quality perception between Russian and US developers.