The mirror of fools

The mirror is a recurring theme in the history of folly, particularly in Europe, where there are many images of a fool holding up a mirror, whether to himself or to you, the bystander. This device can still be seen in some European carnivals.

In China too, it is worth mentioning that one of the most famous jesters was called Newly Polished Mirror (Jing Xinmo 鏡新磨) and another was known as Mirror-like Lu (Lu Ruojing).

Here a medieval French proverb, allegedly motto of a prominent fool society, the Infanterie Dijonnaise, attests to the fact that the world is full of fools and the only way to avoid seeing them is to self-isolate and smash all the mirrors in sight.

‘Le monde est plein de fous, et qui n’en veut pas voir 
Doit se tenir tout seul, et casser son miroir.’  


‘The world is full of fools and who would them forsake

Must keep to himself and his looking glass break.’


Source: Beatrice Otto, Fools Are Everywhere (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001), p. 98

Image credit: mirror frame, oak, veneered with ebony and black-stained baleen, c. 1640-1655, Rijksmuseum

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