On my last lightening trip to London, I was able to squeeze in a trip to see the Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites Exhibition at the National Gallery. I was attracted initially because of the Pre -Raphaelites, who are among my favourite painters, but I'm also a fan of the Van Eyck picture that was the starting point of the show - the Arnolfini Portrait. That's the one with the young couple holding hands in a bedroom that might be a wedding or a betrothal and where the woman may be pregnant. Or is it the style of the dresses of the time? Lots of mysteries about the picture’s subject matter, which is always a fascination. Funnily enough there is no mystery about the history of the picture as it has quite a comprehensive provenance right from the time that it was painted. That too is interesting as it survived war and moves through several countries before ending up in London.
The theme of the exhibition was the influence that portrait had on the Pre-Raphaelites and one of the major links, surprisingly, was mirrors - particularly convex ones. It had never occurred to me how many of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings feature mirrors. As The Lady of Shallot was one of their favourite subjects, perhaps it should have. The various depictions were fascinating and the chance to look into one of the mirrors which was owned by Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a high spot for me – one of those spine tingling moments.
Of course writers like mirrors too – illusions and images which may or may not be real. Smoke and mirrors. As I have been outlining a piece of work that involves a music hall magician, I think I may be introducing something involving a mirror into that. It is a long term project though so will not be seeing the light of day for a while.
It’s also given me a yen to own a convex mirror of my own. Although it won’t be as spine tingling as Rossetti’s.
Although I suppose that might depend on whether it finds it's way into a book.