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Young Girl Singing into a Mirror

Mysterious, playful and a tad eerie. It almost seems like a subtle premonition of the sound recording and reproduction technology nearly two centuries before its emergence and the so-called 'mirror effect' it caused, empowering musicians' ears to hear every minute detail of the performance of their ghostly past selves and thus fixating in a bewitched feedback loop of perpetual technical improvement. Or is it a subtle jab at a specific deficiency of auditory arts or, if you will, 'gradually revealed paintings', as Leonardo reckoned the lower class medium in his diary, accentuating its temporal, fleeting quality? It is as if the artist teases us, flexing his skills on the side, depicting a subject simultaneously from two perspectives (hello, Picasso and Braque), 'see, I made you see the girl sing. She and her song are immortal now. You are free to relish every detail of her expression in the mirror. But do you hear the song?'. Instead, there is only this flickering silence endemic to any painting. The silence everyone experiences when looking at them. And it comes not from outside but someplace inside. It has nothing to do with sound. However, three centuries ago, when a girl sang in the mirror, and an artist witnessed her play, her reflection sang back.

'Young Girl Singing into a Mirror' is a painting by Jean-Etienne Liotard that I stumbled upon today in a recent post by Jason Farago.

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