Friday, August 19, 2011

Mirror Magic

Mirror, mirror on the wall... Mirrors have powerful fascination for most people and I find myself drawn right into those with their old glass still intact, like this fabulous 18thc example from the Assembly Rooms in King's Lynn.

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)

Louise Allen
Ravished By the Rake (UK August 2011)
Practical Widow to Passionate Mistress (US August 2011)


Jenny Haddon said...

Gosh Louise, that mirror is beautiful. Does it have a slight distortion? I remember seeing one in which it looked as if there was a party going on, just at the edge of the mirror. It was actually multiple reflections of yourself, because of the irregular curvature, I was told.

But it always looked to me as if there were more people through the looking glass.

Oh dear, I feel a story coming on. And I don't have TIME.

Alison said...

How beautiful, and how fascinating is the box!

I love mirrors, and I remember the sad story behind one at Craigston Castle, that I visited last year. Not only was it documented to have come from Versailles, but the rest of the room's content (much also from Versailles) had been destroyed by fire about 50 years or so earlier, giving the room a sad feel and making the mirror an even rarer survival.

Dee said...

Unfortunately I have no mirror story.
I did enjoy reading this one though.

Julee J. Adams said...

Love the box with the mirror--I collect antique boxes.

A mirror story? My bedroom set was a blonde wood laminate, with the rounded wood tops and a ton of inlay work. The mirror on the vanity was a huge round one. I was too tall to sit with my legs under the vanity. It went to a family friend at auction, after my dad passed and Mom was in a nursing home.

Thanks for an interesting article!

catslady said...

I can think of only one mirror that aways fascinated me. My mother got a comb, brush and hand mirror with a long handle from my dad when they got married (he rarely bought gifts that weren't practical) and a music box too. I held that mirror many a time when my mom or I brushed my long hair as a child while I imagined myself many things. Eventually the handle broke off but the mirror was still used. In fact at 89, my mom still has the mirror and the music box. I hope my older sister doesn't want it lol.


Louise Allen said...

Prize Winner!

And the winner is - Alison. Congratulations. Please email me on
so we can organise your prize

Alison said...

Oh wow, thanks! Sorry only just saw this! Emailing now.