‘Gazing in hir glasse of vaineglorie’
Negotiating vanity
in The senses in early modern England, 1558–1660

This chapter explores the problems that mirrors presented for women, at whom they were often directed, and discusses the potential for women to circumvent some of the mirror's negative associations. It presents various self-portraits by Sofonisba Anguissola and Artemisia Gentileschi which reveal the different approaches of these women to the problem of representing themselves. Female artists who represent themselves are hampered by the mirror's classic, symbolic associations with women which regularly portrays them in an unfavourable light. The images of Anguissola and Gentileschi, combined with the discussion of James Shirley's 'To A Lady Upon a Looking-Glass Sent', illustrate that the mirror is used in its traditional context of sin, pride and vanity. The mirror appears as a tool of self-improvement, as a means of gazing into the truth of the soul, or what the soul ought to be, and as a motif for true self worth.

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