Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mirror, Mirror

I was doing some research today on mirrors and I came across a wonderful miniature of Marguerite de Navarre in her chemise gazing at herself in a hand-held mirror. It is taken from a prayer book owned by her brother François I. The picture makes reference to the book of religious poetry Marguerite published in 1531, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul). Queen Elizabeth I of England translated and published Marguerite's Miroir as A Godly Meditation of the Soul in 1548. The delightful miniature captures the joyousness of spirit Marguerite shared with her brother, despite her preoccupation with weighty religious questions.

As for mirrors, it was in Venice during the sixteenth century that the process of coating flat plates of glass with thin coatings of reflective metal, usually a mixture of tin and mercury, was developed and closely guarded. The process was extremely time consuming and dangerous for the craftsmen; hence, mirrors were very expensive items. They were housed in frames carved of ivory, wood, or precious metal that were works of art in themselves. Here, for example, is a photograph of a sixteenth century carved walnut mirror frame.

I'll leave you with a painting that is purported to be of Diane de Poitiers, Henri II's mistress, regarding herself in a mirror. The painting dates from about 1590, so if it is of Diane, she's looking pretty good for being all of 109 years old! A jeweled mirror perched on a sculpted base stands to her right.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Loved these pictures!

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks, Susan! I wish I could have reproduced them in the body of the post, but I wasn't clear about their copyright status, so I thought it safer to post the link. Thanks for taking the extra effort to click on them.

Anonymous said...

The miniature of Marguerite is so beautiful because of her smile, why is she described as a penitent? She looks as if she knew something others didn't, as if were chuckling to herself about it. Now I like her even more, thank you ^^


Julianne Douglas said...

Tocotin, I love that picture, too. Marguerite must have been an amazing person to know. I think she's smiling because she realizes that failing is as much a part of being human as rejoicing is, and she's able to accept that.