Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 231: Fun Fact Friday - The Moneychanger and His Wife and Some Creepy Guy Reflected in the Mirror

The Moneychanger and His Wife, by Quentin Massys, is perhaps the most famous image illustrating economic activity in our world's modern-ish history.  Painted in 1514, it now hangs in the Louvre in Paris, which pretty much confirms that it is "important art".

Some art historians note that the husband is counting gold coins while the wife reads a religious text, believing that this communicates "subtly hinted conflict between avarice and prayer."  Huh.  Yeah, I guess I could be convinced of that....

But I'm more interested in that shiny round mirror sitting on the table.  What's that about?  If you look really closely, this is what you'll find reflected in the mirror:
Who IS that guy?  I think Sir Creepy's identity will remain a mystery, though the man's relatively normal proportions suggest to me that Massys struggled a bit with the image.  See how the window next the figure follows a convex pattern?  Massys clearly knew the image ought to be distorted, but it looks like he couldn't quite pull it off with the mystery man.  (And in the Louvre!?!  Huff. Puff.)

This brings me to a second fun fact: why is the mirror convex in the first place? After consulting The Mirror: A History, I learned that convex mirrors were a sign of the technologically-challenged times.  I quote: "After the ball of glass was blown, melted lead was poured into a concave bowl and was then removed.   The mirror was never larger than what could be cut from the glass ball, and the curvature gave it a bulging shape that can be found in Flemish paintings [ahem!] and German engravings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries."

Very cool! Once again, I learn something new every (Fun Fact Fri)day!  I hope you do too. Have a great weekend! ;)

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6 comments:

  1. 11-11-11!!! thats kind of a fun fact, right??? Great post, love you!

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  2. The former Art History major in me loved this post! If you're not making me laugh or inspiring me to think about stuff in new ways, I can usually count on at least learning something really cool!

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  3. Yikes! I wish I hadn't seen the creepy guy in the mirror right before going to bed.....

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  4. SCARY ONE. haven't heard it yet. i wish not to experience it! good luck guys!

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  5. The man in the mirror was the painter himself ofcourse, it was a kind of self-portrait (explains the mirror) because painters didn't add their name to the painting but they wante d to show who painted it. We can see the same thing in the painting of Jan van Eyck: Arnolfini portrait, where Jan van Eyck can be seen in the mirror
    http://jackiewhiting.net/ArtHist/Images/Arnolfini.jpg
    http://jackiewhiting.net/ArtHist/Images/ArnDtl.jpg

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