This Latin phrase literally means "as in a mirror", and more loosely means "just as" or "in exactly the same way as".

At one time, Covent Garden used this phrase as its motto - it was used as part of a decoration in the center of the proscenium arch, directly above the stage. This motto was also used by the Liverpool Theatre in the 1700s.


It is also the title of a rather garish abstract painting by Hans Hofmann, dated 1962. It's a seemingly haphazardly woven quilt of rectangles, from dull to nearly fluorescent colors, punctuated by smudges and dashes of translucency at the corners. It was done in oil paints but feels like acrylic to the eye; where another artist might have blended or smoothed edges together, Hofmann sharply lays his figures on top of each other, like heat-warped plastic tiles stacked in the corner of a room as neatly as a workman could manage. The ambiguity of the intended overlap of shapes, and the visible distinctions both tonal and physical between layers of pigment, enhances the actual third dimension of the work to create a sense of space that can become a box, the "pile of tiles" I mentioned, or a reflection of the rectilinear space that the viewer is standing in.

At the right is a hierarchical stack of ruddy and bluish tints which holds sway over that whole side of the painting. With the pinkest rectangle, the lightest red, at the top of a row of similar shapes, it appears as if it is a figure - the most simple and generic of possible human-like forms, with head, thorax, abdomen, and not even a face. At the bottom of its lowest rectangle, there is a tiny square with many colors inside it - this little window onto what looks like a deeper level of the painting is the busiest single area of the painting, and yet this inch-wide spot is overwhelmed by the expanses of flat color around it.

To the left and in the center, anchored at its base by the darkest colors in the painting, is a similar but disproportionate and slanted tower of yellows and greens that mirrors the "figure" on the right. While it corresponds in a balancing way with the other half of the composition, it plays with contrast, imbalanced within itself and partly blending into the larger "background" shapes around it.

Because of their titles, and the presence of repeating patterns, and the use of pink, bright green and yellow, I can't help but think of Picasso's "Girl Before A Mirror" when I look at Veluti in Speculum. However, the similarity is merely superficial, and I am left to wonder and suppose at the meaning Hofmann intended for the piece's title.

I can't locate any images of the painting online, but I have a photograph that may or may not have been taken by me at the Met in violation of the rules. It's available on request by email or instant message.
This is almost an example of noding my homework, though I actually wrote it spontaneously for E2 before deciding to use it as the first page of my essay for Art Theory class.

Sources:

  • http://www.sacklunch.net/Latin/V/velutiinspeculum.html
  • http://www.uq.edu.au/drama/marlis/theta.htm
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.