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mirrors-msg - 10/11/09


Period mirrors. Mirror cases. Construction. References.


NOTE: See also the files: cosmetics-msg, hair-msg, p-hygiene-msg, ivory-msg, glasswork-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 14:51:25 -0500

From: rmhowe <magnusm at ncsu.edu>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: Mirror views


Melanie Wilson wrote:

> >Now if anyone can tell _ME_ where I might find some cross sectional

> >views or back side views, or actual _mirror_ composition to medieval

> >European Ivory Mirrors I should very much appreciate it. I have

> >the Dress Accessories book.


> What page ?


I think you misunderstood me here, Mel, I am not looking for infor-

mation on the _little mirrors_ in the Dress Accessories book _unless_

it is the composition of the reflective elements which aren't in the

Dress Accessories book that I recall. I think that is all empty frames.


I am looking for the _cross sectional_ views of Ivory mirrors, that is -

*how joined - Did the side interfit, or were they hinged?

*what the reflective elements were made of that went in them -


*how they were attached - (glued in or maybe fitted with some sort of

spline, wire or frame at the edges.)


I want to know what the functional side of the mirror was like.

I bet I have a dozen or more different pictures of the pretty sides.


> > What I'm looking for is the side you

> > never see in the picture books that show the lovely carved side.

> > I'd like to know if there was a back cover to those things and if so

> > how joined and what got put in them to reflect and how set


> I'll see if I can find more if you write a list of questions to be

> asked I can hassle all my museum chums here, I'm hoping to do a

> mirror myself in  the future so I need the info too.


> Mel


I'd appreciate any help on this.


Incidentally that Art of Medieval Love book has a really nice mirror

from eastern Europe with a handle of intertwined lovers and a fold

down cover hinged to the mirror itself. Cast metal. Quite nice.





Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998 21:45:05 -0800

From: Mary Haselbauer <slaine at stlnet.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: ivory mirror cases


Some ivory mirror cases seem to have survived in pairs. I remember

some sources calling them "valves" like a clam shell is said to have

two valves.  Anyway, I can't think of any of my sources that

showed anything other than the front or how they were hinged.





Date: Fri, 4 Dec 1998 06:31:45 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: LIST SCA arts <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Mirrors !


OK I've spoken to the Museum of London, they are sending me some articles

etc, these are in German I'm afraid but I can get them translated. So more

to follow.


As for the reflective surfaces they blew a glass bubble then smashed it,

the pieces were cut to the size required and backed with foil, placed in

the frame in the correct manner to magnify. Most frames were wooden or

metal. Only the top ones were Ivory. Most were very small.





Date: Sat, 5 Dec 1998 13:58:49 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

To: LIST SCA arts <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Mirrors !


Translation summery to follow, but if anyone wants to look up the German

articles here are the details:



BONNER JAHRBUCHER des Rheinischen Landesmuseumsin Bohn und des rheinischen

Amtes fur Bodendenkmalpflege im LANDSCHAFTSVERBAND RHEINLAND und des






BONNER JAHRBUCHER des Rheinischen Landesmuseumsin Bohn und des rheinischen

Amtes fur Bodendenkmalpflege im LANDSCHAFTSVERBAND RHEINLAND und des








Date: Sat, 05 Dec 1998 17:52:18 -0600

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Mirror Case Construction


Several folks had been asking about how medieval ivory mirror cases were

constructed, and I thought the following might be helpful. There is never

a good description nor a picture of the hinging, but several other sources

are cited which may prove more helpful.


"Mirror and Other Cases

>From the late thirteenth century until about the middle of the fifteenth,

richly ornamented ivory mirror-cases were among the most popular products

of French ivory carving schools (see, for example, Koechlin 1924; Longhurst

1929).  These cases, designed to hold small circular mirrors, mostly of

metal, were made in two elements with an internal recess for the mirror.

The suitably tender scenes (lovers in a garden, the storming of the Castle

of Love, and so on) carved on the outer faces are frequently contained

within a circular frame, often with four angular supporters which impose an

overall square format (Figure 55).  Related pairs of valves have

occasionally been recognized but the method by which they were attached to

one another is not always clear.


A series of what may be cheaper versions of mirrow-cases provide one of the

rare instances of composite construction in bone during the medieval

period.  To meet the need for material which is both appropriately large in

area and of sufficient thickness to allow relief carving on the outside and

a recess on the inside, three strips of bone (presumably from cattle or

horse long-bones) were riveted together by means of cross-bars at the top

and bottom.  A well-preserved example from Warburg, Niedersachen, is

illustrated by Schultz (1965), and two representatives of this type, one of

them complete (Figure 56), are in the Museum of London. Drilled holes on

the cross-bars of the London pieces may indicate the former presence of

pivoting doors.  All three display castellated architectural forms, a

feature also found on smaller one-piece cases from Esneux, Belgium, and

from Hitzacker, Elbe (Wachter, 1976).  The latter piece has both elements

intact and retains two glass disks within its ovoid internal recess.  The

latter were so diminuitive, however, as to be useless as mirrors.

Wachter's identification of the piece as an amulet may well be correct: one

might imagine a lock of hair or some similar relic enclosed between the

glass disks.  The architectural allusions of certain lead-alloy pilgrim

badges (Hansmann and Kriss-Rettenbeck 1966) may lend further support to

this suggestion."


Arthur MacGregor.  Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn.  Totowa: Barnes and Noble.

1985. p. 99.


Here are the full cites for the material above:


L. Hansmann and L. Kriss-Rettenbeck.  Amulett und Talisman: Ersheinungsform

und Geschicte.  Munich: Callwey. 1966


R. Koechlin.  Les Ivoires Gothiques Francais.  Paris: Picard. 1924


M.H. Longhurst.  Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory 2. London: Victoria and

Albert Museum. 1929.


H.A. Schultz "Die Karamik der Bugr Warberg im Elm, Kreis Helmsted".  Neue

Ausgrabungen und Forschungen in Niedersachsen 2.  1965. pp. 253-60.


B. Wachter.  "Mittelalterliche Knochenscnitzarbeiten von der Weinbergburg

in Hitzacker (Elbe)".  Zeitschrift fur Archaologie des Mittelalters 4.

1976. pp 123-30.


Gunnora Hallakarva




Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1999 16:56:54 -0500

From: Melanie Wilson <MelanieWilson at compuserve.com>

Cc: LIST SCA arts <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Mirrors


Translation of the later article


A short resume of the mirrors-article by Ingeborg Krueger. It is a follow

up of an earlier one from 1990 in which all known material about medieval

mirrors was given. There have been no new insights since then, but lots of

new mirrors have been found (and some published) in digs since 1990. These

and some older, but not heretofore known examples will be described in the



Many more decorated mirrorcases of bone and horn have been found, but these

have been written about in an earlier article (note 2). Then she describes

two bone mirrors, one found in Burg Hain (Hessen) and another (1240-50) in

Bamberg in the cathedral mount. Both are very small (much smaller then the

French ivory ones); the first case about 8 x 5,3 cm, mirror D 4 cm, the

second case 3 x 3,1 cm, mirror D 2,6 cm.


Many new metal mirrorcases have been found since 1990. Almost all are cast

form a copper alloy and ca 3 cm D. Because so many of this type have been

found in England and those on the continent look so much like these, she

thinks most of them must have been made in Britain. (see also Dress

Accessories by Geoff Egan). The continental ones are from the west of

Nederland and Belgium; some of these even have remains of glass in them

with the kit used to fasten them to the cases.


An other, very curiously, was found in Corinth, Greece, probably from the

French occupation of this city between 1210 and 1313.


Lastly there are 2 fragments of chalkstone casting moulds in the Museum of

London, of even smaller mirrorcase (2,8 cm). This is another indication for

a British production-centre.


Cases made of pewter are fewer. They vary between 3 to 5,4 cm and have been

found over a wider area than the copper ones (London, Paris-St Denis,

Nieuwlande-Nederland, Perth-Scotland, Lund-Sweden, Rougiers-Provence,

Cork-Ireland, Meols-Cheshire, Beverly-Yorkshire). The rest of the articles

are descriptions of the cases and comparisons between them. No final theory

is given, but the article does not seem to be finished on page 225



Date: Wed, 04 Oct 2000 07:55:06 -0400

From: Ron Charlotte <ronch2 at bellsouth.net>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: mirrors


At 12:03 PM 10/3/00 -0500, Keina wrote:

>When did glass mirrors come into popular use?  A friend of mine would like

>to try selling some small (4-8 inch) oval mirrors, some of them etched and

>some with carved wood backings (she has experience with both wood carving

>and glass etching).  I'm at a complete loss as to where we might find

>information on this subject, so any help would be appreciated.


I know that cased mirrors in both metal and glass were in vogue from the

13th century thru the 15th century.  Some of the cases got quite elaborate

and were made in a variety of materials.  After that, mirror glass

apparantly became less dear, and much more widely available and in larger



Glass etching is a tough one.  I've found very little information on acid

etching prior to the 17th century, and a _bit_ on diamond point engraving

earlier.  (If anyone has better info, my Baroness would love it).


        al Thaalibi -- An Crosaire, Trimaris

       Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL

        afn03234 at afn.org OR ronch2 at bellsouth.net



Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 18:28:13 +0100

From: "Melanie Wilson" <MelanieWilson at bigfoot.com>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: Re: mirrors


Mirrors as we know them were generally not used until quite late I got a

load of info for Magnus from the MOL  a while back, they were very small and

concave so you could see yourself !!!


I guess I have the translation somewhere or maybe Magnus does ?





Date: Wed, 4 Oct 2000 13:42:11 -0500

From: "j'lynn yeates" <jyeates at realtime.net>

To: <sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu>

Subject: RE: mirrors - a warning


a cautionary tale ....


a word of warning to anyone considering silvering their own mirrors

... make sure you know what you are doing.  i know from intimate

experience that the silver solutions used in some processes can be



a twit in my phys chem class was silvering mirrors for a

interferometer they were building and instead of properly disposing

of the silver solution they were using, they simply placed it down on

the bench and walked away from it.  


several days later we were cleaning up the lab and i picked up the

unlabeled beaker with a cloudy solution and solid particular matter

on the bottom, which immediately exploded in my hand.  the solution

had percipitated out silver fulminate, which is a very unstable

explosive that can be easily set off by vibration.


luckily, due to open nature of the container (beaker) and the way i

was gripping the container, the major force of the explosion took the

path of least resistance upwards and downwards and away from my body.

i escaped with only superficial injuries - minor hand, face, and

scalp lacerations as well as significant silver nitrate staining to

the arms, hand, and face .... i had my own safety glasses and wore

them religiously.  they shielded my eyes from the flying glass shards

and most of the silver solutiuon.  after the incident, people stopped

making fun of my "nerd" safety glasses and a couple of them got their

own and started wearing them.


though the careless fool that created the accident was not so lucky

when a black-stained, somewhat bloody, and enraged individual stormed

into another classroom, and dragged him outside and "explained" their

extreme displeasure to him ...





Date: Thu, 05 Oct 2000 13:12:20 PDT

From: "Shashana of the House of Lamb" <shashana_lamb at hotmail.com>

To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu

Subject: Re: mirrors - warning & misc. stuff


I do believe that you are referring to the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait.



>More on topic, there's that Flemish painting that I can never remember

>the name of: wedding couple, he's in this HUGE fur hat, she's holding her

>dress in front of her to look like she's pregnant, they're barely

>touching, dog "perched" on the floor, this HUMONGOUS chandelier right

>above them looking like it's ready to fall, and a concave mirror in the



<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org