I stood in front of it for long minutes, mesmerised by the silver shimmer of the old glass, half expecting the scene behind me of the Mayor greeting visitors to turn into a Georgian ball in full swing with an orchestra in the gallery, candlelight, the chaperones' corner and, of course, a handsome man walking towards me...
Not all mirrors are as beautiful. The "mirror" once owned by Elizabeth I's astrologer Dr John Dee, is actually a polished obsidian Aztec cult object, one of the curiosities reaching Europe during the 16th century. Dee used it as a "shew-stone" to see visions of the future and you can see it at the British Museum and catch an eerie glimpse of your own reflection, even if you cannot see the future in it.
Much more charming is this little late 18thc enamel patch box. I bought it because of the charming couple on the lid and the motto "Sweets the Love That meets Return" but I was thrilled to find it still has its tiny mirror in the lid.
How many women have peeped into that tiny mirror - only 4cm wide?
The fact that it has survived, albeit cracked, suggests it was treasured after the fashion for wearing paches on the face had long gone.
Was a little surreptitious rouge or rice powder concealed in it? Or tiny sweetmeats, or perhaps pills? Or was it just a pretty trifle to keep in a reticule to take out and check one's appearance or spy over one's shoulder at what was happening in the room behind?
Is there a mirror that has intrigued, or even frightened you? Tell me about it - there is a prize of a signed copy of one of my latest books - your choice - to the writer of a comment chosen at random. (Check out this post on Friday 26th August and I'll announce the winner)
Ravished By the Rake (UK August 2011)
Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress (US August 2011)