Why had been Mirrors Invented? (plus When, Who, The place & How)

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Mirrors can are available in quite a lot of completely different kinds and designs and will be suited to suit any residing house. Whereas mirrors have turn into an integral a part of our day by day lives, their intensive historical past and affect on human tradition are arduous to disregard.

Black and white photo of a woman admiring herself with necklaces while holding up a round mirror.

The mirror is an integral a part of the house, and of our day by day lives. Our reflection can dictate how we really feel that day, it will probably rework an area, in addition to our notion of ourselves. Whereas the Greek mythological story of Narcissus reminded people in antiquity of the risks of seeing their very own reflection, (although metaphorically talking) this didn’t deter humankind from needing and enhancing technique of self-reflection.

The mirror has many functions at this time, together with within the discipline of science and tech, however its origins are of the utmost elementary human trait, curiosity.

Earliest Mirrors

The primary mirrors that we’ve got archaeological proof of had been made in Turkey, courting way back to 8000 BC [5]. The mirrors had been product of polished black obsidian, a volcanic stone, and due to the burden of the stone, the mirrors remained small and handheld. A number of of those obsidian mirrors had been discovered at an archaeological web site in Turkey, Çatalhöyük, one of many oldest websites of human settlement.

Being that Çatalhöyük is among the earliest human settlements after a protracted historical past of a cellular way of life, it astounded archaeologists that mirrors can be current at such an early interval of human settlement. Because of this, many imagine the mirrors “had been utilized in rituals by shamans or different non secular figures” [11], or as a way of telling the long run. This concept of ‘magic’ or otherworldly components of the mirror would stay.

Later variations of the mirror product of polished copper and bronze fairly than obsidian had been present in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India from roughly 4000 BC to 2000 BC[3]. The bronze mirrors of the Egyptians had been spherical flat discs mounted with wood, steel, or ivory handles usually carved with the representations of various gods [6]. One of the crucial spectacular examples of the bronze mirror is the Lighthouse of Alexandria (280 BC)[5].

The lighthouse contained “a big, curved mirror on the middle that might replicate the sunshine from a hearth. This reflection appeared like a beam of sunshine and would assist information these at sea again to security”[5]. These early mirrors made out of stone and crude metals would solely replicate about 20% of sunshine[4], and subsequently the reflections created had been blurry and distorted.

Mirrors grew to become a preferred luxurious across the vintage world and had been usually extremely decorative. Many early Roman mirrors had been product of “speculum: a brittle, highly-tinned copper alloy”[finds], and infrequently had a deal with, and hammered ornamentation. The Romans of the First Century CE additionally invented early glass mirrors, however they quickly fell out of trend throughout the Center Ages attributable to non secular suspicions of darkish magic.

The mirror for early Christians was seen as a way for the satan to look upon you from the opposite facet of this mysterious glass. Due to this fact throughout the Darkish Ages, many had been fittingly at the hours of darkness of their very own appearances.

How the Mirror Influenced Artwork

Exiting the Center Ages, the Renaissance noticed a resurgence of numerous artwork varieties that had been in a state of hibernation throughout the Darkish Ages. One in all these artwork varieties was the resurgence of glass mirror making. The mirror, an artwork type itself additionally was closely featured in different types of artwork, like portray and drawing, both as a sign of wealth or as a way of making an fascinating perspective.

One of the crucial well-known examples of this inclusion of the mirror in superb artwork is Jan Van Eyck’s 1434 portray, The Arnolfini Portrait[1]. The mirror on this portray is believed to serve a number of features. The primary operate is probably to show the wealth of the Arnolfini household, as mirrors throughout this era had been extraordinarily pricey, and subsequently reserved for the very best of society.

The second operate is believed to behave “because the document of a wedding contract within the type of a portray”[2], in different phrases, to visually point out the witnesses of the union. The third operate may merely be a way by which the artist can assert themselves within the picture. Like a signature, Van Eyck leaves a document of himself within the portray.

The fourth operate is a flex of the artist’s energy when portray difficult views. The convex mirror, standard throughout the Renaissance, reveals the house that might in any other case stay unseen within the portray. It performs with perspective and consists of the artist inside the framework of the portray.

Side profile of an Asian woman checking herself in front of a small mirror.

Mirrors in artwork from the Renaissance not solely served to create fascinating views but additionally allowed for extremely detailed self-portraiture, that beforehand wouldn’t have been attainable. Parmigianino’s 1524 “Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror”[9] is probably probably the most evident instance of this. The portray shows superb talent in perspective and portraiture whereas the canvas takes on the bodily form of the convex mirror itself.

This portray epitomizes the numerous connection between the mirror and the self in Renaissance society.

The Daybreak of Glass Mirrors

Whereas glass mirrors had been invented by the Romans within the 1st century AD, It wasn’t till the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that the Venetians started to grasp mirror making. The “Venetian masters invented the ‘flat mirror approach’”[7], a method executed by attaching a skinny layer of tin or lead blended with mercury to the glass. One other approach included utilizing a mix of gold and bronze together with tin, the place “objects reflecting within the mirrors appeared far more lovely than in actuality”[7].

In different phrases; objects in mirror could also be much less lovely than they seem. These Venetian mirrors extremely may price near the worth of a big naval ship[7]. Due to this fact the Venitian mirror was an merchandise obtainable solely to the wealthiest in Renaissance society.

Whereas the Venetians used a composite of tin, lead and mercury mounted to glass to create their mirrors, later mirror makers would use silver, fortunately as we now perceive the poisonous nature of mercury and lead in massive portions. This course of known as ‘silvering’ was invented by German scientist Justus von Liebig in 1835[8]. Silvering consisted of coating the bottom of a pane of glass with liquified silver.

We nonetheless comply with this silvering course of in fashionable mirror manufacturing, nonetheless, extra generally the extra inexpensive aluminum is used as an alternative choice to silver.

Black and white photo of a woman looking at herself in front of a mirror.

The fashionable manufacturing of mirrors is finished by spraying glass with a liquified silver or aluminum resolution. The liquified silver or aluminum is then sealed with copper, and the glass is extremely polished. The glass itself is made out of sand melted at extraordinarily excessive warmth after which flattened into molds.

Due to the developments offered by fashionable expertise, extraordinarily pure sand, or artificial sand reduces the danger of impurities in mirrors. Earlier mirrors had been usually extra flawed because of the impurities within the sand that would create imperfect glass.

Mass industrialization has additionally allowed all of this work to be accomplished by machines and algorithms fairly than expert artisans, subsequently there may be little or no chance for human error.

Image of a woman looking at her reflection in a round mirror.

The Mirrors Affect on the Viewer

Whereas the mirror is such a normalized virtually second nature side of our day by day lives, there was a time after we couldn’t view ourselves so clearly. Early people earlier than the invention of obsidian mirrors, so far as we knew must rely on a nonetheless pool of water to see themselves, disturbed by ripples. Even with early mirrors, our self-perception was blurred and skewed via the polished crude metals and stone.

As mirrors elevated in readability via the Classical Period into the Renaissance, so did our views of ourselves, and individualism grew to become the forefront of recent pondering. Girls as early because the twelfth century would carry round early renditions of the compact mirror, mounted to chains round their necks, and worn like jewellery[7]. Our look had turn into extra essential than ever.

Earlier than the invention of the mirror “we considered ourselves as part of a group. Our identification was tied up with the folks we knew, the place we lived in”[10], however with the mirror, we noticed ourselves as people separate from others. With the gradual availability of mirrors over time, the obsession with look would contact all, no matter class and gender.

Black and white photo of a woman looking at herself in a wall mirror.

How Mirrors Are Used At this time

Mirrors remained pricey till mass manufacturing caused by the Industrial Revolution made manufacturing extra inexpensive and merchandise extra extensively accessible. Due to this fact mirrors earlier than this was an incredible show of wealth. The Palace of Versailles for instance featured an opulent show of mirrors that might be an unassuming luxurious to at this time’s viewers.

Modern bathroom with gilded double mirrors and matching gilded faucets.

With mirrors now extensively obtainable they serve completely different features. Mirrors extra generally now are used for utility, both within the closet for trying out your outfit, within the rest room on your hygiene, or strategically positioned in the lounge to bounce mild from a window or create an phantasm of better house. Mirrors can are available in quite a lot of completely different kinds and designs and will be suited to suit any residing house.

Whereas mirrors have turn into an integral a part of our day by day lives, their intensive historical past and affect on human tradition are arduous to disregard.


1. “Arnolfini Portrait – Wikipedia”. 2022. En.Wikipedia.Org


2. “Artists’ Curiosity With Convex Mirrors – Omelo Mirrors”. 2022. 

Omelo Mirrors

3. Castro, Joseph. 2013. “Who Invented The Mirror?”.


4. Heichelbech, Rose. 2022. “What Individuals Did Earlier than Trendy Mirrors Have been Invented In 1835”.

Dusty Previous Factor

5. “Historical past Of Mirrors — 8,000 BC To Current Day”. 2021.


6. Lowder, Stephanie. 2022. “The Historical past Of Mirror: By means of A Glass, Darkly – Bienenstock Furnishings Library”

Bienenstock Furnishings Library

7. “Mirrors Historical past – The Historical past Of Mirrors – Inviting House”. 2019.

Inviting House

8. “Mirror | Optics”. 2022.

Encyclopedia Britannica

9. “Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror – Wikipedia”. 2022.


10. Sorrel, Charlie. 2022. “How The Invention Of The Mirror Modified The whole lot”.

Quick Firm

11. Kelleher, Katy. 2019. “The Ugly Historical past Of Stunning Issues: Mirrors”.