Speculum, from the Latin “specere” (to look, to observ) in turn derived from an Indo-European root, “spek”, meaning to look.
The Mirror implies a never-ending story. A story that accompanies the history of man since many thousands of years. All the Earth’s peoples have discovered the Mirror in a thousand forms in some parts of their history of civilization. Starting in the antiquity with the custom to mirror themselves in the water and see their reflected image and passing to the sequent earthenware dishes on which they poured the water in order to use them as mirrors, arriving to the well polished surfaces of different materials such as copper and bronze, up to today’s glass plates.
What is the Mirror? An infinite number of viewpoints down the journey of self-consciousness.
Why men have created the Mirror? The evolutionary istinct pushed them to strongly desire the fulfillment of a need : the need of self-consciousness and to transform their own illegible and inseparable shadow in a finally decipherable image, to commute their own opacity in transparency and to change their own obtuseness in self-consciousness, to change their own night in the sunrise of perception. In terms of the primordial, the Mirror represents the perfect fusion between seawater and sunlight, H2O and photons. Arising life, comes the Mirror.”(1)
In japanese tradition the sun is the Mirror, the universe itself is a Mirror and the absolute is a pure Mirror. Among peoples of southern China and many Polynesian islands the Mirror is the ocean that reflects the ocean and becomes the father of all living. From the Shintoism to the religions of Tibet and Iran the culmination of spiritual asceticism is called ‘the Mirror’. An Asiatic myth tells that God was an infinite Mirror and one day he decided to shatter in an unlimited number of fragments, each of which retained the original divine properties ... and thus was born the universe. So, the Mirror’s mythology, anthropology and ethnology are some of the most complex in the human history. The Mirror’s theme has always fascinated the human spirit attracting the attention of the most varied figures of researchers over the centuries. “At the beginning of the 20th century, for istance, the Mirror became an elective symbol of the dark recesses of the soul thanks to the discoveries relating to the territories of the unconscious by Freud and Jung. The Mirror as the place of manifestation of the double and channel decanting the occult counterparty of the conscious personality, has been studied within the archaic myth of Narcissus, the adventurous story of Alice and the superstitious substrate of many folk traditions.” (2)(The Mirror as a witch’ or Devil‘s tool).
The reflecting surfaces don’t signify only self-observation but also the observation of the universe; there was in Rome the phenomenons of Speculatio and Consideratio (from the Latin “cum sideribus” means “the set of stars” and to consider meant to look at the stars within a Mirror). The ancient to observ the night sky after thousands of years of observation with the naked eye, started using a Mirror within which stars were reflected. The Mirror allowed to focus, to collect and to aim the perception which was called ‘Speculatio’ from the Latin “speculum”.
The technical history of the Mirror is probably the most complex among the stories of materials of human production of which human civilization has been interested in. We can find today mirrors made of glass and crystal but in the oldest age the mirrors were made of polished copper, bronze or silver. In the classical Rome and Athens and in the ancient Greek the Mirror was very expensive because who polished mirrors spent one year to complete just one Mirror obtaining an uncertain reflecting surface.
“Only after thousands of years of difficult technological advancements man became able to fabricate a really crystal slab, suitable to faithfully reflet the surrounding reality. The art of each time worked on the contours and on the back of the Mirror but almost never on the reflecting surface. This is something mysterious that has always oscillated between the sacred modesty and the tabù and has always kept the fragile Mirror far from the creative men’s hands. The Mirror was finally limpid and able to create an unchanged reflection so it should not be tampered with anymore, not even by the fine arts. The Mirror needed intangibility.”(3) Then, 40 years ago an artist decided to reverse the trend : the fragile and pure crystalline substance could become the raw material of an art. A long journey started : the Art of engraving on Mirror by Lorenzo Ostuni.
“The engraved Mirror constitutes a revolution in the history of art and aesthetics : unique among all the arts, the engraving on Mirror mirrors itself and at the same time reflects who regards. It seems to have paradoxically the same characteristics of the human mind which perceives the surrounding reality and at the same time apperceives itself in the act of capturing the reality and invert it. In the heart of the reversal lives the origin of the consciousness and its site.”(4)
(1)(2)(3)(4) from the papers and the dialogues with Lorenzo Ostuni in his studio, ‘The Plato’s Cave’.