Mirror, Mirror

Woman in Mirror, Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter, Pixabay-400px
Photo by S. Hermann & F. Richter, Pixabay

Greetings Museum Biters! Today we’re taking a moment to reflect on mirrors. We use these ingenious devices to primp and preen, capture photos, navigate through traffic, view the heavens, and craft dazzling works of art. Join me for a brief look at three glittering examples of mirror art. We begin with a star…

Twinkle, Twinkle:  Our first mirror, Tir (Convertible Series; 2015) by Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (1924-2019) is on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). Crafted from bits of cut mirror and reverse-painted glass, this glittering star-within-a-star twinkles whether you are near or far. Amber starbursts and Escher-like patterns add a splash of color and texture to the star’s six points. Like much of Farmanfarmaian’s work, Tir can be exhibited in a variety of forms. Regardless of its shape, the resulting mirror mosaic is nothing short of stunning.

Born in Qazvin, Iran, much of Farmanfarmaian’s art was inspired by her visits to the Shah Cheragh. Located in Shiraz, the walls and ceilings of this mosque and popular pilgrimage site are decorated with a spectacular array of mirror mosaics.

Farmanfarmaian and her husband fled Iran in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution. For almost 25 years, she lived and worked in exile in New York. In 2004, Farmanfarmaian returned to Iran and re-opened her workshop where she continued to craft her exquisite art until her death earlier this year. If you’d like to view more of her mirror art, click on this Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian link, courtesy of the Monir Museum.

Fun Physics Fact:  According to Encyclopedia Britannica, total internal reflection (aka TIR), is defined as, a complete reflection of a ray of light within a medium such as water or glass from the surrounding surfaces back into the medium.

To Infinity and Beyond:  Our next example of mirror art is on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). Modernity Circa 1952, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely (2004) by Josiah McElheny (b. 1966) is comprised of eight hand-blown, clear glass bottles of varying shapes and sizes. Standing at attention, images of bottles bounce off the walls and reflect to infinity and beyond! Lean in close and you too will be captured in this delightfully, dizzying display.

Modernity Circa 1952, Mirrored & Reflected Infinitely (2004) by Josiah McElheny, MAM, Photo by cjverb (2017)
Modernity Circa 1952, Mirrored & Reflected Infinitely (2004) by Josiah McElheny, MAM, Photo by cjverb (2017)

Josiah McElheny studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. He is a master glassblower and MacArthur Foundation fellowship recipient. McElheny frequently includes poems, quotes or fictional historical narratives with his work, and his pieces often pay homage to artists who have inspired him. Click on this Josiah McElheny link, courtesy of Google Arts & Culture to view more of his work.

Untitled (White; 2000) by Josiah McElheny, Photo by Clairem05, Wikimedia Commons
Untitled (White; 2000) by Josiah McElheny, Photo by Clairem05, Wikimedia Commons

The Fairest of Them All:  Our final mirror was crafted by 18th-century cabinetmaker, John Belchier (1717-1753). This gorgeous gilt-framed mirror is on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and is comprised of not one but two pieces of glass. The technology to craft a mirror of this size with just one piece of glass was not available to craftsmen during this era. The top section of glass may be faded, but this ornate beauty is a sight to behold. Flanked by 18th-century portraits, step before Belchier’s gilded mirror and you’ll be the fairest of them all.

Gilded Mirror (c1725) by John Belchier, Detroit Institute of Arts, Photo by cjverb (2017)
Gilded Mirror (c1725) by John Belchier, Detroit Institute of Arts, Photo by cjverb (2017)

In the above photo Belchier’s mirror captures a portrait of Lady Anne Hamilton (c1778) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788).

Born in France and raised a Huguenot (French Protestant), Belchier, like Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, had to flee his home country to escape religious persecution. Belchier set up shop in London and through hard work became a well-known and sought after cabinetmaker. After more than 200 years, his work is still coveted today. It is also easily identifiable since Belchier was one of a few craftsmen to attach a trade label to his work. Click on this John Belchier link, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view another example of his mirror work.

That wraps up our look at mirror art. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Bites. In the meantime, have a fantastic week!

Woman in Mirror, Photo by BlazeofBliss, Pixabay-100px Cover photo by BlazeofBliss, courtesy of Pixabay.


Ancient Origins: Shah Cheragh

Britannica: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

Britannica: Total Internal Reflection

British and Irish Furniture Makers Online

Corning Museum of Glass: Josiah McElheny

Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)

Detroit Institute of Arts: John Belchier Mirror

Detroit Institute of Arts: Portrait of Lady Anne Hamilton

Google Arts & Culture: Josiah McElheny

Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM)

Grand Rapids Art Museum: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

Guggenheim: Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian

MacArthur Foundation: Josiah McElheny

Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Belchier Mirror

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM)

Milwaukee Art Museum: Modernity Circa 1952

Monir Museum


The Source: Antiques & Their Interiors

Wikimedia Commons


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