Smashing mirrors, precious reflections

As a way of minimizing the ‘transaction costs’: I wrote yesterday about one mirror of Juan de Flandes, so why not to add a few stories about his – if not mirrors, then mirror-like objects in his paintings.

In the past I was writing, few times, in fact, about the relationships between mirrors and shields: it started from the mirror/shield of Mars, then I talked about the shields in general, and then I could not stop, and wrote about the story of St. George aka Archangel Michael and other Perseuses, and all their shields.

This painting is also very interesting, having all this mirror-&-shield access in mind.

Apparently, the painting also was a part of a larger altar, commissioned for the church of the University of Salamanca (the artist moved there after the death of the Queen Isabella in 1504), presumably completed not later than 1505. In contrast to the previous panel, this one is very large  of this – quite a lot of work, almost one meter tall (the height of the shield is nearly 25 cm, it’s bigger than the entire panel with Christ and a mirror.) Content-wise, it is about the Archangel Michael, ever defeating the dragon, as well as about St. Francis, ever receiving his stigmata (there’s a short description of these subjects at the museum’s website).

The painting is clearly an example of the late Spanish period Juan de Flandes, it already resembles much more the work of his Spanish contemporaries, than his native Flemish compatriots. It’s seen in less detailed brushstrokes, in contrasting (but more pompous) colors, and in more much emotional, melodramatic even, facial expressions of the figures. In the North the Archangel Michael would be likely depicted in full armor, and with a sword, while here he is a white robe and with a spear/staff looking more like a subtle elf.

I do a good enough copy to look closer at the shield-mirror (I’ve sent a request to the Metropolitan Museum, so I may get a better copy in the future); but in the meantime here’s what we can see:


As in the case of the “Mirror of Christ,” this mirror/shield is also convex. It is not quite clear what is reflected here – there should be some part of the dragon there, but we also see a skyline; or a cityscape?). The vertical lines could be columns (or a grid), but may simply be a way to illustrate curved glass.

From strictly functional point of view the use of mirrors on the shield is silly – unless you are going to fight with the Medusa (or if these reflective surfaces are mere allusion to polished steel).

Rcently i_shmael the tireless brought from Spain another beautiful Archangel Michael with a shield-mirror:

I don’t know anything about this work – neither who painted it, nor when (nor why); I can’t avoid noticing some resemblance of the faces of the two archangels (although on the latter Michael is in full armor), although in this shield-mirror we see the reflection of some sort of window, and not sky.

Since I start writing about mirror-like objects, it may be worth to include other objects too, for example, the jewelry of various sorts:

This is his Annunciation (1510). There are no mirrors here, strictly speaking, but some of the gems might have interesting reflections, too. There are at least three objects of that kind here:

To say something meaningful, I’d need to have a much better copy (hello, Google Art Project? But at least what I can do for now is to ‘park’ these examples here, to return to them later.


I’ve already written this text when тут mindszenty found the way to see much larger pictures on the museum’s website; I decided not to re-write the text, but simply add there here:

And even more high-res images are available (you can click on the pic to see more details):

It was a bit strange to see no dragon in the reflection; from a mere optical point of view, it should be there, at least partly:

The same mindszenty suggested that what we see is the Hell, and the vertical lines are the bars of the gates. I personally think it’s a bit too poetic an explanation; I’d see here the elements of design – of large convex mirrors? or may of the shields.

The margins of the shield, that work as the mirror’s frame, are also quite remarkable.


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