Saturday 6 June 2009

Mirror, Mirror

To mark Velazquez's 410th birthday - and as a service to devotees of Venus Callipyge everywhere - here's the Rokeby Venus. As has often been remarked, the image in the mirror, if that is what it is, is 'wrong' - not least because it's actually larger than the original. As Gombrich point out in (I think) Art And Illusion, images in mirrors are surprisingly small - you can find out how small by looking at your face in a mirror, from quite close up, and marking the top and bottom of the image. Step back and you'll be surprised by how small it was - though you had seen it as something like full size. Velazquez was a famously tricky painter when it came to images and reflections - think of the endless complexities of Las Meninas, or several of his works which include something that might be seen in a mirror, or through an opening in a wall, or might be a picture... Anyway, one thing we can be sure of about the Rokeby Venus: to borrow Peter Cook's art gallery gag - the bottom follows you around the room.


  1. I am pretty sure that people who really love this painting are not looking at the reflection of Venus' face in the mirror. They are gazing reverently at something else, the focal point of the foreground.

  2. A peach of a post, Nige.