Mirrors have long had a prominent place in painting. A reflection in a painting allows the artist both to include an illustration of the painting's subject from multiple angles and to comment on the nature of visual reproduction. Many master painters, such as Van Eyck, Velasquez and Manet, have placed mirrors prominently in the work.
"The Arnolfini Wedding" by Jan Van Eyck
Here, a convex mirror offers a distorted reflection of a marriage ceremony, serving as Van Eyck's visual criticism of the hallowed institution.
"Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez
Here a mirror, rather than reflect the painting's subjects, introduces new characters into an already mysterious tableaux.
"The Bar at the Folies Bergeres" by Edourd Manet
Manet uses a mirror in this modernist painting to show a French barmaid from two angles. The reflection is incorrect, though--the reflection shown is impossible--causing the audience to reconsider the nature of painting and images.
"Venus at Her Mirror" by Titian
Titian's painting of Venus examining her reflection uses the mirror to make a comment about the nature of vanity and physical beauty.
"Madame Paul-Sigisbert Moitessier" by Ingres
This portrait by Ingres shows a woman facing the viewer, but also visible in a mirror to her left, thereby showing her from two angles.
"The Dance Lesson" by Edgar Degas
In this painting of a ballet class, Degas offers two views on the young women. This could be interpreted as a visual play on the idea of performance and the act of being seen.
- Psychoanalical Inquiry 5; "Mirrors in Art"; Laurie Schneider, Ph.D.; pg. 283-324
- "On Reflection"; Jonathan Miller; 1989
Michael Wolfe has been writing and editing since 2005, with a background including both business and creative writing. He has worked as a reporter for a community newspaper in New York City and a federal policy newsletter in Washington, D.C. Wolfe holds a B.A. in art history and is a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y.