The mirror was often used as a symbol of the vanity of women. The moralizing, however, was mostly hypocritical.
You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.
The real function of the mirror was otherwise. It was to make the woman connive in treating herself as, first and foremost, a sight.
This hypocritical moralizing in art forms a clear parallel with the conservative line on rape, where women are complicit in their own assault. The same culture that blasts us from all angles with the message BE SEXY, pushing us to spend time and money to appear young and beautiful for as long as possible, reminding us always that we are objects for visual consumption, condemns us for vanity and blames us for inviting male attention. A woman on the street will be told by strangers to smile; a rape victim will be accused of flirting.
I also have some notes on how to make this painting better:
- The top and bottom halves of this woman's body look fairly unrelated. There seems to be some spinal misalignment.
- Naked women rarely wear sandals.
- Mirrors don't work that way.
- Dogs don't have mouse heads. (Alternatively, mice aren't dog-sized.)