The Mirror of Art: Painting and Reflection in Early Modern Visual Culture

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book addresses the key pictorial development of Renaissance art: a conceptualisation of painting as a mirror reflection of the visible world. The idea of painting as specular was argued in Renaissance art theory, demonstrated in art practice, and represented in painting itself. The book takes a dual focus, between art-making and art-viewing, to evince that an early modern elision of the picture plane with the mirror conflated the surface of painting with the instrument and exemplar of its own production. Renaissance painting’s specular configuration is considered from different thematic points of view in a succession of chapters, to drive a fully interdisciplinary analysis of the mirror as the mechanism and metaphor of the early modern visible field. Through the mirror analogy that pervaded not only art theory and practice but also the larger cultural spheres of science and letters, the book recasts our understanding of the inter-visual relationships between disciplines. Both within the artist’s workshop and within pictorial representation, the inset mirror reflection became the emblem, the instrument, and the definition of what a painting was. The research for this book was funded by a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust (2017-21).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 May 2023


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