Ever since Narcissus was transfixed by his reflected image in a pond, mirrors have been an important theme in literature. For the past few centuries, they have also been a focal point in the home. Whether it’s a tall, rectangular mirror by the front door, so you can take one last look at yourself before heading out into the world, or an oval mirror over the fireplace, whose placement can give the illusion of more space in a confined area, mirrors are an essential home furnishing.
The precursor to the modern mirror was developed in 16th-century Italy. There, the Venetians perfected glass and metal mirrors. Subsequent mirrors made in all corners of the globe—Europe, the Americas, Asia—were produced in every imaginable shape, from rectangles and squares to ovals and perfect circles. Some mirrors doubled as clocks, others were manufactured for the likes of Coca-Cola and Budweiser to advertise these and other frosty beverages. Often as interesting to collectors and interior designers alike is a mirror’s frame, which can be gilt in gold or left raw and unfinished for a rustic, country look.