Mirror Mirror…

by Liza Laserow

Swedish Mirror made in Buchardt Precht Art from the Baroque Period 1650-1750

http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=381642

Swedish Rococo period (1750-1775) mirror signed by mirror maker Niclas Meunier (NM)

http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=369312

Swedish Mirror with a carved and gilded wooden frame from the Gustavian Period 1790-1810

http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=361009

A Tall Swedish Mirror from the Karl Johan Period 1810-1830

http://www.1stdibs.com/furniture_item_detail.php?id=560024

Italian Baroque (1650-1720) mirror hanging in my apartment.

Photo by Fabian Berglund http://fabcreative.wordpress.com/

First famous story about a mirror is from 384 BC and about the Greek speaker Demosthenes who practiced his speech in front of a mirror. At that time mirrors were extremely expensive. During the Middle Ages women carried mirrors in a thin chain hanging from their waist. To protect the glass they were covered in a graceful cover made from ivory. Some of those mirrors carried inscriptions such as ” To be together or die.”  or “Don’t complain about me, woman. I  give you only what you give me.”

People have been fascinated by mirrors since ancient times. The idea was that the mirror could hold the soul and power of life of the persons reflection and that the mirrored surface was the gate to an enchanted kingdom. Different cultures have their own interpretation what the mirror symbolizes. According to Buddhism the mirror is the purity and truth, in China a square mirror is the earth and a round is heaven, Christianity equalizes the spotless surface with virgin Mary.

The mirror came to Sweden during the Baroque period when the economy got better and habits from the European continent were picked up but it wasn’t until the Rococo period (1750-1775) the form of art flourished. To build mirrors in Sweden the 18th Century you had to obey strict rules. The certified mirror makers had to work in a shop to learn the profession then present a master piece. It was prohibited for the mirror maker to do anything else such as build the frame, gilding the frame etc. Famous mirror factories were Olof Westberg, Joseph Schurer, Erhardt Gobel and Niclas Meunier (see picture).

An incorrect theory regarding the divided mirror glass is that they weren’t able to make them large enough. The real reason was that if you could afford a large mirror with a complete glass you could also afford to pay a higher wealth tax. So to not pay taxes the mirror glass stayed divided.

To read more about Mirrors (unfortunateley its in Swedish): Torsten Sylven and Elsbeth Welander-Berggren’s: SPERGLAR – Spegelmakare & Fabrikörer i Sverige 1650-1850.