mirror, mirror…

copper mirror
A copper gilded mirror (convex oval)

Next to the glass fur project and the research into clay to glass, I’m trying my hand at verre églomisé, the art of gilding glass.

Ever since we were introduced to goudleder – “Cuir de Cordoue“, in Prof. Em. A. Bergmans class of History of interior, I’ve developed a fascination for gilded surfaces and am doing some research on it, especially (guess what…) how it’s applied to glass. Even in the history of glass alone there is so much to discover… Do you recognise this mirror from a famous 15th century portrait? And did you know that this type of convex round mirror was called an “Oeil de sorcière” (witches’ eye)?

The Arnolfini Portrait, détail (2).jpg
The Arnolfini Portrait (mirror detail)” by Creator:Jan van Eyck – Image:Jan van Eyck 001.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Verre églomisé was a decorative technique, often combining the gilded surface with reverse painting (on the back of the glass), so that the glass itself can act as protection and lens (of sorts). Mind you, this wasn’t the way functional mirrors were made in the past; since the Renaissance a tin-mercury amalgam was used to create a smooth reflective surface, and Venice was one of the manufacturing centers.

copper mirror
A detail of the copper mirror, seen on the back showing the bare metal leaf.

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In using metal leaf, it is impossible to obtain such a smooth surface, but that doesn’t matter. It is precisely the edges of the leaves, the tiny folds and crinkles that make the mirror seem more alive. Also it gives the opportunity to oxidise the metal so it darkens; you can already see this happening in some of the patches in the mirror detail above!)

The reflection of a gilded mirror is softer, almost painterly. I love this effect. Since there’s so much going on with the reflection already, the form of the mirror doesn’t have to be complex. The convex/concave distortion is interesting, and I’m working on some forms but still debating if I want them to be more organic or geometric…

For inspiration I’ve turned to Pinterest, with a collection of artistic and contemporary examples. Feel free to take a look!

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