The waves of my (mirror) memory

I tried to write yet another nostalgic posting, about yet meeting with the “old familiar mirrors” (of Jan de Beer, in this case) and got a very bad feeling, namely of the fact that I will have to write twenty more of such postings before I could go the ‘new mirrors’. It is clear that I write about these mirrors for so long that some sort of self-referentiality should inevitably emerge… but to a degree. Otherwise this blog will soon start looking like a cake with the custard curls.

Therefore I decided not to spin all these memory curls ad infinitum, but to collect all my encounters with the (art) mirrors in the Museum Thyssen in one big posting. There will be nothing ‘theoretical’ in this story, just plain vanilla visual experience.


This was, in fact, one of the first art-mirror I wrote about (see Unicorns in the Proximity of Golgotha). I was writing very short stories back them, and even blended all four panels by Gabriel Mälesskircher into one collage. In reality there are eight of them:

One day I may have to go back to the original posting and make certain corrections, but for a moment I’d show only the panel with a mirror (or, more precisely, a “mirror”, as I would write now). the one in the panel with St. Luke.

Here is the details showing the proximity of this mirror to the Golgotha scene, which back then gave the name to the posting:

Gabriel Mälesskircher – Saint Luke the Evangelist (1478)


As before, the diptych Annunciation by Jan van Eyck is not really about mirrors, but it is a) still crazy   beautiful, and b) still not entirely not about the mirror  – see Marble Mirror of Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck – The Annunciation Diptych (1433)


I would like to insert here a small tangent, that has nothing to with the ‘mirrors in art’ but is somehow related to the use of lenses. The reason is that just next to this diptych by van Eyck (and to the panels by Mälesskircher) there was a interesting mini-exposition:

The museum took a tiny but incredibly detailed panel by Rogier van der Weyden and installed a magnifying glass, in such a way that people could see all these details with their own eyes. Simples! People were queueing like crazy to experience this basic visual aid:

Some even tried to take pictures through the lens!

This painting by van der Weyden doesn’t have any mirrors (and neither any of his works, in fact), but I find it very amusing and somewhat related to the theme of mediated consumption of art. I do not understand whey there are no such lenses for all of the art-works in the museums (thought people may suggest to take binoculars instead).



Technically speaking, there is no mirror on the painting, either. But I wrote about this work when exploring the ideas of reflections, and shields – see The Volcanic Reflections. The most surprising was a relatively small size of this work – I somehow imaged it much bigger, as often the case with Italian canvases.

Carlo Saraceni – Venus and Mars (c.1600)

and its mirror-shield:


I am showing these pictures in more (or less) chronological order, but in reality my encounters with them didn’t follow this logic. I first went into a modern section, then seen the rooms with the oldest art of the museum, and only them got into the classical art. Guess what, despite all my preparations I run out of batteries in my main camera and too some of the pictures only with my iPhone. A pity, of course, because my (good) camera would allow me to see a lot more interesting details. Oh well, next time better.

Peter Paul Rubens – Venus with Cupid and Mirror (1606)

I did write a special postings about Rubens’ mirrors ore (and I might never do so, I don’t like his style). But his mirrors are too important to miss, and so I already mentioned a few of his works (see Mirrors and Venuses), and I may decided to write about his own mirrors still (this is one is in fact a copy of the Titian’s work.)


With this work I got a surprise too – not in the museum, but later on. I knew this painting, and was completely sure that I already wrote about it, in my review of all the Dutch masters of Golden Age (see On mirrors, tables and walls (and yes, girls too)). But we went back home I have discovered that I managed to miss this master, Nicolaes Maes. That’s not good, he has a few very interesting mirrors, including this self-portrait.

Nicolaes Maes – The Naughty Drummer, or A Self-Portrait in a Mirror with a Scene of the Mother Admonishing her Son (1655)


Both very beautiful AND very important (for mirrors in art) work by Boucher – see. Domesticated Mirrors of François Boucher.

François Boucher – Le Toilette (1742)


Again, technically speaking there is no mirror in this painting by Degas. But as I wrote (see The Mirrors of De Ga. Part II (Ballet)), these work is central to the understanding of the ‘mirror cocoons’ created by this master.

Edgar Degas – At the Milliner’s (1882)


The Yellow Flowers by Matisse happened to be much brighter and more beautiful than I could imagine from the reproduction I had – you can compare yourself (see. Serial Mirrors of Henri Matisse).

Henri Matisse – The Yellow Flowers (1902)


Harlequin with Mirror by Pablo Picasso – I write about this work in my second part of my posting about him Picasso and the Women (and a few mirrors in between) (Part II):

Pablo Picasso – Harlequin with a mirror (1923)


The very first painting with mirror by Delvaux (see Paul Delvaux and Melancholic Nudity of his Mirror Worlds)

Paul Delvaux – Woman in the mirror (1936)


The picture of La clef des champs by Magritte was a total failure – but it could be considered a mirror work also with a very big stretch. Nevertheless, I have included it in my list of mirror-works of Magritte (it even lead to the very name of the posting – The (Broken) Keys to the Splitted Mirrors:

René Magritte – La clef des champs (1936)

The next works are from the not-yet-written postings; those “I am almost about to finish” postings that I have a plenty.


In the case Bacon it is not even completely unwritten, I managed to create a quick ‘stub’ with a few of his works some time ago – see “Each day in the mirror I watch death at work”. But it is still not a complete story, more like a collection of the paintings with mirrors.

Francis Bacon – Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968)


Freud is less lucky, I don’t even have such stub about his works yet; only big plans.

Lucian Freud – Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait) (1965)


The work by Hopper brought an interesting discovery. I thought I knew about this painting, but in my collection it was presented in the following version:

The real Girl at sewing machine looks quite differently. The one above is most likely someone’s homage to the work by Hopper.

Edward Hopper – Girl at sewing machine (1921)


The last mirror is also ‘American’ one, although many people consider Hassam a French artist, since he was impressionist than many any French impressionists.

Frederick Childe Hassam – The French Breakfast (1910)

It turned out to be surprisingly many mirror-works  for one got – fifteen! And this even despite the fact that I managed to miss a few (for example, a marvellous mirror by Morisot – I showed it when writing about the mirrors of Manet (Manet enters the Bar, or Bricolage of the hollow mirrors).

But there was, in fact, even more mirror encounters, with the ‘potential mirrors’,  so to speak’. The museum has a large collection of  German expressionists (Kirchner, Pechstein, Muller, Beckmann, Nolde and many more), all of whom have interesting works with mirrors – but not in this museum. And they are also ‘potential’ because I still didn’t write about them.

In a sense, it was even a bit sad to realise that “I already know everything,” and that wherever I go I tend to already know about almost any mirror; in multa sapientia. It was therefore a pleasant discovery of at least one mirror I knew nothing about:

Pierre-Antoine Quillard – The Four Season. Winter (c.1725)

This is actually only one painting from the series of four (each dedicated to one seasons. It’s funny that the mirror was only in the “winter” part; if I remember, the calendar paintings were usually putting mirrors to the Spring sections.


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