We wouldn’t need a great deal of imagination to speculate the use of still water in the early stages of sophistication within human society for the lack of a better alternative or simply as the starting point to watching one’s own reflection. The transient images commonly lost to ripples induced by a bird, animal, a fellow creature or an apathetic doze of breeze found permanence on the mirror, which was to permanently revolutionize the way we look at ourselves.
Not only did its circumference of influence expand over the years to envelope the most diverse cultures and demographics but the frequency of our engagement with it grew with the growing complexity of our society. There is no room, no building, and no physical dimension of our lives that we could claim to have remained elusive from its grasp.
Before glass was discovered as the premier component —dull and imperfect images dominated the chambers of adornment across cultures, often the material in the absence of glass happened to be polished stones samples of which dating back to 6000 BCE have been found in Turkey, metal mirrors seem to have inherited the mantle in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 4000 BCE where mirrors made of polished copper, tin, and bronze have been found, in subsequent centuries metallurgical advancements of the Indian and Chinese civilizations resulted in an improved variety that we refer to as speculum alloy mirrors duly reserved for the rich due to the tedium and rigor involved in their manufacturing process and were later used as reflecting surfaces in reflecting telescopes until the mid 18th century in Europe .
Image from Wikipedia
Glass became the chief component in the making of mirrors since the beginning of the Common Era or roughly 2000 years ago in the Lebanon region. The glass mirror was able to reflect better images for the Romans and the Greco-Roman civilizations and its unprecedented domination spread across Europe and other civilizations the Romans had come in contact with; made from an amalgam of molten lead and glass this mirror reigned supreme during the middle ages only to be improved by the Venetians in the 16th century who rid the reflecting image of its distortions by replacing the earlier version with a tin-mercury amalgam. Far from the grasp of common folk the mirror was locked away in the dressing-rooms and caskets of the rich, if it were to become as revolutionary as the wheel in its influence then its transition from a precious to a household item had to be ensured. The leap into mass production was made possible by Justus Von Liebig, a German chemist who altered the mirror manufacturing process and its ingredients and introduced a good measure of technological innovation in order to obtain high quality optical mirrors fit for telescopes.
The modern mirror and the newly acquired method engaged in its production were found suitable and aimed at mass consumption which brought a significant change in grooming standards giving rise to ancillary industries catering to individual facial and body parts. The latent need for titivation or tidying once appearance is easily reinforced when faced with a mirror; preening takes immediate effect in most cases unless the subject in question is unyielding and considers vanity a harmful vice, however, such a contrarian view would be met with stiff resistance and pushed into obscurity by most people across all societies. Personal grooming is innate in animals—a recorded fact among many species—primarily for the purpose of hygiene and social bonding. The human mind capable of astute observations and endowed with the capacity to innovate was certainly going to take a giant leap forward in transforming the human appearance once it became successful in producing its master weapon: the mirror.
The human imagination had found its trustworthy lieutenant in the mirror—a constant companion and a compendium of sorts—reflecting every inch of the human body enabling a record of its image and appearance for the observer as a natural consequence, which would lead to higher grooming standards, greater emphasis on cosmetics, and in our present age of post baby boomers a quest for youth and awarding clemency to healthy vanity bordering on narcissistic levels of self-adornment thereby granting patronage to the flourishing industry of aesthetic surgery. Surely the mirror too has undergone a series of refinement procedures becoming an invaluable instrument of research turning its gaze towards entities beyond the earth’s orbit thereby fulfilling deep-seated human curiosities and aspirations for quests of different worlds that were clumsily articulated in Central and Mesoamerican traditions which treated the mirror as a portal to unreachable domains and dimensions held it in high mystical regard and had weaved elaborate ceremonies around it.
We had looked at ourselves and at distant objects we even added magnifying mirrors to the spectrum of our achievements to be able to add depth to our inspection but we were yet to take a hard look at the limiting factors around the mirror itself which could be rendered useless by mist during showers in our bathrooms and power failures at night or simply staring at our images with strain due to insufficient lighting in the bathroom. A question like that could have given us frisson a few years ago certainly a few decades ago, but today such scenarios would cease to impact our grooming activity which can be easily negotiated with Illuminated Bathroom Mirrors that come fully equipped with LED lights which run on electricity and batteries; most are embedded with demister pads which remove the mist or fog accumulation on the mirror surface during showers. The modern bathroom mirror is a well armed to serve you in the most challenging conditions but would it stop there? Well the modern mirror wants to have a dialogue with you!
I would like you to recall the Magic Mirror from the famous German fairy tale Snow White which was capable of talking; in fact locals from the Lohr am Main town in Germany attribute the origin of the fairy tale to a real princess of Lohr castle and the famous talking mirror is displayed in the town’s Spessart Museum attracting throngs of tourists. The talking mirror from Lohr not only inspired the most pivotal scene in the fairy tale but burnished a reputation for mirrors manufactured in Lohr as virtuous mirrors always reflecting the truth which made them an essential gift item among European royalty at the time. Most of us would continue believing that the talking mirror is and would most likely remain a piece of fiction but even an assertion as sound as that, albeit limiting, however, has been overcome by the evolution in technology. A talking mirror branded “Motivational Mirror” by its manufacturer the IKEA group has arrived to alleviate image related anxiety and is programmed to interact with its audience delivering compliments and motivational messages, a whistle is also included to liven your mood. Speaking of moods, the LED mirror variety is extensively used by many people in their bathrooms to overcome dull moments and enhance their mood as the dynamic light sequences introduce a pleasing texture into your thought and emotions.
The mirror has truly transcended its limiting role and even entered into the arena of art and its influence can be fully appreciated in the works of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who was already famous for her use of the polka dots in her paintings but her recent “Fireflies on water” and Infinity Room exhibits shook the colour and canvas paradigm by replacing it with lights and mirrors and have attracted visitors in large numbers. You can further read more on “Lights, Mirrors, Instagram! #ArtSensation here“, by William Grimes. The visual is breathtaking and carries a hint of surrealism that grows on the subject along with his or her experience; the mirror has certainly come a long way from merely being a tool in our hands and positioned to merely reflect our own image to almost replicating the very cosmos we exist in, visually catapulting us on a never ending journey.
In the spirit of cooperation
Besides introspection the mirror in its latest incarnation is able to reach out to us and support our innate yearning for convenience. This new breed of mirrors fall in to the “interactive” category which help us try new clothes virtually, thereby saving us the frustration of repeat trials in a changing room; some are programmed for complete interaction and can be synchronized with our electronic devices in order to send and receive information along with data storage making them our inalienable extension.
Since the invention of the wheel the mirror’s invention would be among a handful others that have had a profound impact on human civilization, ever engaging and truly dynamic. The forward leap in the mirror industry is humongous and rather hard to believe making our entire world appear alongside our reflection.
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