The essentials: 25 of the best mirrors

One of the most enduring artifacts of human history, the mirror is a tool capable of both reflecting and building identity. Here’s a roundup of the most famous.

A polished obsidian found in Çatalhöyük, in Central Anatolia, is one of the earliest finds that archaeologists classified as a mirror. It was forged more than 8,000 years ago and it is the forerunner of a long and varied successions of variations on the theme that increasingly became more sophisticated and pervasive both as a small personal item and as a decoration piece.

Mirrors are paradoxical objects that don’t apparently do anything but show us how we look in the eyes of the world. Yet, it’s precisely this revealing function that pushes us to change the way we behave and appear, helping us build and restlessly revisit our image and identity. It’s comparable to the effect that a mirror has within our homes, where by multiplying light, reflexes and perspectives, it leads us to rethink the space surrounding us. And it often does with irony, as this selection of mirrors show.

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