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TURKISH HAND MIRRORS

Among the Turks mirrors were traditionally turned to face the wall when not in use, and not until the 19th century were the tall wall mirrors known as pier-glasses in baroque frames introduced from Europe as a furnishing in the houses of the wealthy. Prior to that mirrors were only used when people were dressing their hair or getting ready to go out, and young people were taught that it was vain and therefore sinful to look more than briefly at their reflection in the mirror. Since mirrors were turned against the wall after being used, ornamenting their backs was a natural development, and Turkish craftsmen produced a wide diversity of mirror frames made of wood, ivory, iron, silver, mother-of-peal and gold, decorated with floriate and animal motifs in techniques like carving, inlay, relief and engraving. Until the 18th century mirrors remained within modest dimensions and had restrained decoration. Then, quite suddenly, mirrors produced for the rich and court circles altered in character to become decorative symbols of luxury, opulence and pleasure. From the 18th century onwards, mirrors began to play an important role in interior decoration.

Mother-of-pearl and silver were the commonest materials for Turkish mirrors. The former were made of wood, one side carved out to take the mirror itself, and the edge and back inlaid with mother-of-pearl which was further decorated with engraving. Some mirrors were made with a chain for hanging on walls, and others with handles as hand mirrors. Both these types were known as 'cushion mirrors' because when not in use they were laid or hung against the cushions of the divan. Most silver mirrors had chased decoration or were sometimes made of filigree. Copper gilt mirrors were also produced, while the wealthiest families had gold mirrors studded with precious gems.

Reference: Prof. Dr. M. Zeki Kusoglu / Skylife

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