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When we look into a mirror we tend to see ourselves differently than what is really there. An interesting nontraditional vanitas type painting that gives a great example of this is Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror painted in 1932. The visual elements, unique design, and iconography that Picasso used smoothly communicates the theme of mortality while also influencing contemplation of self.
There are many visual elements that help to balance the composition. The woman on the left and her mirrored image on the right gives the painting a symmetrical balance. The composition seems to be divided by the left mirror post that goes down vertically. The symmetry is what made me attentive to the fact that the reflection of the girl’s face is not the same as her face on the left side of the painting. The girl’s gesture as she reaches out to the edges of the mirror links the girl and her reflection. Picasso put emphasis on this by using the red stripes beginning at the girl’s chest extending all the way to the ends of her fingertips. I kept looking back and forth from one side of the painting to the other side because of just that one little aspect. The red stripes help to create unity and rhythm within the painting making it whole and balanced. The organic curves as well as the repeating circles also bring unity to the composition.
The colors Picasso used in Girl Before a Mirror play a huge part in stimulating emotion and providing balance. The natural focal point of this painting is the girl’s face. Picasso used a light yellow for her hair, a more intensely bright yellow for one half of her face, and a oval of green and white stripes surrounding her hair and head separating her from the boldly colored dazzling jewel like b...

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... brighter side of her face should be showing in the mirror which indicates she does not see herself the way she really looks. Instead she sees a shadow of uncertainty with her own inner self and realizes the inevitable.
Girl Before a Mirror is a wonderful piece of art to evaluate because it is a complex and non traditional form of a vanity style painting. Its composition is smooth and well balanced in portraying the theme of mortality. Through his skillful use of visual elements, unique design, and iconography Picasso was able to accomplish his goal in making one contemplate life and the inner self. Girl Before a Mirror communicates the message that the vanities in which a woman, viewing herself in a mirror, sees herself not the way she looks, but through the clothing down to the flesh which holds the certain and saddening truth of inescapable aging and death.
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