Convex mirrors (also referred to as “Bulls-Eye Mirrors”, and based on stylistic design, “Eagle Mirrors”) are considered diverging mirrors. The light rays that strike the convex mirrors surface diverge, or “go apart” without coming to a point. It is defined as “A curved mirror in which the reflective surface bulges toward the light source. Such mirrors always form a virtual image, “inside” the mirror, which cannot be reached”.
Not only do these classic elements in interior design refract rays of natural sunlight or interior lighting in stylish ornamentation but also add important depth of dimension to our interior spaces. The distinctive interest that a convex mirror offers to interior spaces can be verified throughout its history, beginning in art. A constant subject in paintings, the convex mirror is certainly embedded in the archives of oil paintings within the history of art. Beyond the important means of painting self portraits, Master painters would use the convex mirror as a tool to convey meaning, perspective and skill. Art, indeed.
It is said that in its early days the convex mirror was also considered a charm to ward off evil from the home and its inhabitants. Who knew? Additionally, in France the convex mirror is commonly known as “oeil de sorciere” or “Witch’s Eye”. It also became known as the “Banker’s Eye”, due to the fact that it reflected blind spots more effectively than a conventional mirror, allowing bankers, moneylenders and goldsmiths to keep a watchful eye on unseen areas without the use of its mirrored, reflecting surface. Again, who knew?
During the 16th century, especially in Northern Europe, convex mirrors were a common inclusion in many interiors. The popularity of these emblems of mirrored style increased in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. During 17th century France, the first glass and mirror factory in Northern Europe at St. Gobain, France was established by Louis XIV, which aided in the production of convex mirrors (alas, I have already expounded upon the Sun King’s emblematic “Sunburst Mirror” in a previous post, “The Radiance of the Sunburst Mirror”…) However, during the 18th century, the glass craftsmen, like the Venetians, began to press glass into large, flat mirrors (thus, the famous Hall of Mirrors of Versailles). Perhaps due to the appeal of these large mirrors, the convex mirror eventually lessened in its own appeal. Not to be forgotten, however. The convex mirror was favored once again in the Empire Period of France, the Neo-Classical Regency and Georgian Periods in England and the Federal Period in America during the 19th century. It is the American Federal style (1790-1828) that brought the patriotic symbol of the the eagle to the glory of the convex mirror. Due to the dominant sense of nationalism with the formation of the new American democratic Republic, many government leaders, including Thomas Jefferson, found inspiration (yet again) in the classical past of Greece and Italy. Indeed, history repeats itself. Heavy in appearance, the Federal convex mirrors are mounted with three-dimensional carvings of eagles over mirrored spheres. Thought to be a combination of European styles, the Federal Style convex is a timeless and emblematic motif with a subtle masculine edge. Mirrored style with meaning.
During the 1950’s, the convex mirror once again found a resurgence within the interior design world and reproductions soon abounded. Today, the convex mirror is certainly an emblem of style found within the interior. The convex mirror itself has returned in many classic and modern forms to bring it to iconic status within the interior…
Timeless in present day, these spherical globes of mirrored style still hold a mesmerizing factor in interiors beyond the decorative function of adding light and reflection into the interiors. Classic style with history.
Consider the convex mirror. Incorporating classic reflective style to a traditional, contemporary or even modern interior is an enduring addition of historic style. Classic, decorative accents with purpose. There is no doubt that the convex mirror has returned to the world of interior fashion, but perhaps it can also be said that its appeal never faded. Enduring reflective qualities of mirrored style, for certain.
“Think of the image of the world in a convex mirror…A well-made convex mirror of moderate aperture represents the objects in front of it as apparently solid and in fixed positions behind its surface. But the images of the distant horizon and of the sun in the sky lie behind the mirror at a limited distance, equal to its focal length. Between these and the surface of the mirror are found the images of all other objects before it, but he images are diminished and flattened in proportion to their objects from the mirror…”
-Hermann von Helmholtz
German physiologist and physicist