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Standing Mirror

Juan de Pareja

Juan de Pareja (ca. 1608–1670), 1650. Velázquez. Purchase, Fletcher and Rogers Funds, and Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), by exchange, supplemented by gifts from friends of the Museum, 1971.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 617

Inspiration & Interpretation

The 17th-century painter Diego Velázquez once painted a portrait of his enslaved apprentice, Juan de Pareja, while traveling in Rome. Commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Innocent X, it is believed Velázquez painted Pareja in preparation for the style in which he planned to depict the Pope. But it was his portrait of Pareja, not the Pope, that would stand the test of time.

In Velázquez’s portrait, Pareja is depicted as regal, dignified, and confident. Portrayed as powerful and holy in practice for Pope Innocent X, Pareja’s reality as an enslaved man is overshadowed by his heavenly aura and thus his inherent worth and potential. What role did this creative undertaking have in Velázquez’s freeing of Pareja in 1654?

When one truly sees and experiences in another person the Imago Dei—the image of God—the most loving response is to honor and cultivate that image. We can assume that Velázquez’s painting served as something of a heavenly mirror to the painter: reflecting back to him the depth and beauty of Pareja’s soul and the fullness of his humanity, ultimately leading to Pareja’s liberation.

We sought to “mirror” Velázquez’s creative and spiritual journey in our Ventana Standing Mirror, a solid brass mirror that is a unique portrayal of truth, prompting us to reflect upon the past and ourselves. Mahogany and brass elements exude quiet confidence like that of Juan de Pareja. Made with the highest grade of brass in the world and perpetually polished to achieve its most effective reflection, it is virtually impossible to stare into this mirror and not see something divine being reflected back to you.

The elegance of the Ventana is designed to reflect back to the beholder God’s image in which every human being is made. As a team of mostly Christians at Abner Henry, we believe this deeper spiritual reality being reflected back to us at all times is our union with Christ. In this sense, God becomes the painter portraying us, His creation. As Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

With careful introspection and commitment to constant refinement, divine reflection ought to usher in humility and the desire to cultivate that image, as it did for Velázquez. As St. Clare of Assisi once wrote, “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity.” It is in this mirror of eternity that the truth of our spiritual reality is reflected back to us: that we are loved, accepted, seen by God, known by God, uniquely designed, intricately woven together in the womb of our mother, filled with potential, designed to be refined. The invitation is to live in a way that is grounded in this spiritual truth. Like Velázquez, it is our choice whether we take to heart the spiritual truths reflected to us. How will contemplating the Imago Dei lead us to freedom?

Ernest Hershberger signature
Ventana Standing Mirror

"So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Genesis 1:27


Ventana Standing Mirror

Regal, Dignified, Established

24″W x 18″D x 70″H, 250lbs.

*Limited Edition – Only 70 Available

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“This piece represents self-reflection, peering into your own heart to see if you like what looks back at you. In reality, there is nowhere to hide. God sees your heart perfectly; there is no silo to crawl into and disappear.”

— Ernest Hershberger, Founder of Abner Henry

Ventana Standing Mirror