This “magic mirror” in bronze hides a secret pattern in its reflection

A “transparent” bronze mirror does not exist… unless it is a “magic mirror”. Of Chinese origin, these works of art whose particularity was based on an expert practice of polishing were true masterpieces, testifying to an impressive knowledge of the properties of metals.

“Mirror, my beautiful mirror, tell me who is the most beautiful!” This request for narcissistic consolation, not necessarily all the mirrors have heard. It is true that human beings have made this object, capable of reflecting their image more or less faithfully, to admire themselves, admire themselves, observe themselves. But there are certain types, called “magical”, which are configured not only to reflect a person’s face, however fascinating, but also a secret motif, most often the beneficent image of a deity. . Originally made in China, these mirrors are very rare. One of them was recently found in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio (USA), where it is now on display.

This “magic mirror” in bronze hides a secret pattern in its reflection

The Cincinnati Art Museum has one of the oldest collections of East Asian art in the United States. In fact, the museum acquired its first works from Korea, China and Japan in 1881. In total, it houses more than 100,000 objects that retain, at least for some, a bit of their mystery. This is demonstrated by a recent discovery made by the curator responsible for the East Asian collections, Hou-mei Sung. In order to prepare for a future exhibition, he inspects the museum’s reserves in the spring of 2021 and finds a bronze disc that has been neglected. Present in collections for more than fifty years, it was last exhibited to the public in 2017 as a simple mirror. His appearance is banal: the face is certainly polished, but almost opaque, and the reflection seen there is necessarily vague; on the oxidized reverse, six ideograms are engraved. Buddha Amitābha’s name can be read there.
Amitābha (or Amida) is the central figure of Pure Land Buddhism, symbolizing a perfect world, free from all suffering. Before becoming the Buddha, Amitābha was […]

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