August 29, 2010
mariinsky mirrormirror
The Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, 1860 (source)


In the 1800’s, the Housewives of St. Petersburgh aired regularly at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre. Minus electricity and cameras, the gossip and intrigue played out in real time in front of a live audience as described by Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina:


…When Vronsky turned the opera glass again in that direction, he noticed that Princess Varvara was particularly red, and kept laughing unnaturally and looking round at the next box. Anna, folding her fan and tapping it on the red velvet, was gazing away and did not see, and obviously did not wish to see, what was taking place in the next box. Yashvin’s face wore the expression which was common when he was losing at cards. Scowling, he sucked the left end of his mustache further and further into his mouth, and cast sidelong glances at the next box. In that box on the left were the Kartasovs. Vronsky knew them, and knew that Anna was acquainted with them. Madame Kartasova, a thin little woman, was standing up in her box, and, her back turned upon Anna, she was putting on a mantle that her husband was holding for her. Her face was pale and angry, and she was talking excitedly. Kartasov, a fat, bald man, was continually looking round at Anna, while he attempted to soothe his wife. When the wife had gone out, the husband lingered a long while, and tried to catch Anna’s eye, obviously anxious to bow to her. But Anna, with unmistakable intention, avoided noticing him, and talked to Yashvin, whose cropped head was bent down to her. Kartasov went out without making his salutation, and the box was left empty…


E. Sean Bailey


Gossip Mirror (source)


In many Northern European towns the houses have mirrors protruding from their exterior facades. These ‘gossip mirrors’ are positioned so that the curious people inside the house can inconspicuously look through the window to observe the street. If the events outside appear provocative, this method of subtle viewing provides a covert opportunity to gather fodder for idle chatter. However, the validity of this information is suspect, as reality filtered by the materiality of a reflector and distilled into an image, is bound to be distorted.


Erandi de Silva






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