The small bronze mirror from the 15th or 16th century was gathering dust in a storeroom in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s East Asian Art collection. It would have probably remained forgotten and dusty if a curator hadn’t put research and a remarkable memory together. The museum’s curator of East Asian art was researching “magic mirrors,” or rare ancient mirrors that in certain light show hidden images. That curator, Hou-mei Sung, saw something resembling the examples from Edo-period Japan.
The item in storage in Cincinnati was smaller than the ones held in museums in Tokyo, Shanghai and New York City. It also featured a more complex style of Chinese script. Sung recalled there was something “very similar” about it. Last spring, she sought it out, along with a conservation expert. The conservator shone her cell phone light at the mirror. There was something there. Using a more powerful light later, the mirror’s reflection showed the image of a Buddha, rays of light emanating from his seated form. The inscription on the mirror’s back spells out who was depicted: Amitabha, an important figure in various schools of East Asian Buddhism.
Only three other Buddhist-themed “magic mirrors” are known to exist. The mirror will be on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum starting July 23.
There are lots of nicknames costume jewelry collectors have given their favorite...Read More