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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Part of a Box Mirror
Work Type
3rd-1st century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Hellenistic period
Hellenistic or Early Roman
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
11.3 x 0.3 cm (4 7/16 x 1/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is light green with spots of thin burial accretions. There are very small spots of black copper sulfide corrosion due to a modern storage environment. The disc is mostly or completely mineralized. Small chips lost from the edges and from sharp raised points of the circular decorations do not reveal preserved metal. In spite of this, the original surface is perfectly preserved, down to the level of fine finishing marks. Seven cracks start at the edges and propagate 1 to 2 cm toward the center of the mirror.

The mirror component was probably made using the indirect-casting process, but considerable direct work may have been done to finish the wax model. The perfect circular geometry and fine finishing marks at these circular designs indicate that careful finishing of the cast piece must have including spinning it on a lathe-like apparatus. The extremely crisp shapes of the raised edges of the circular reliefs appear to be the result of cutting these shapes into the metal while the object rotated. Burnish marks in the flatter areas also run in a circular direction. It is possible that some of the turned decoration was done in the cast wax model, but it is also clear under magnification that some of this work was done by rotating the metal after casting. The exterior, convex surface is more finely polished than the interior.

A 1.5-cm length at the edge is covered with iron corrosion products. These may be the remains of a hinge mechanism for attachment of another component of the box. However, there are no holes or other alterations in the metal to define this feature further.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)


Recorded Ownership History
The Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University (before 1970-2012), transfer; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2012.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection, Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This disc is the cover element of a hinged box mirror, also known as a Klappspiegel (1). A box mirror consisted of two discs that stacked together, joined by a hinge. One disc functioned as the mirror, the other as the protective cover. The flat upper side is plain, polished, and featureless. The convex bottom is decorated with raised and incised bands of concentric circles. The rim is high, rounded at the top edge, and bears linear banded decoration on the exterior.


1. Compare L. P. di Cesnola, A Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 3 (Boston, 1903) pl. 60.2 and 60.4; J. W. Hayes, Greek, Roman, and Related Metalware in the Royal Ontario Museum: A Catalogue (Toronto, 1984) 188-93, nos. 316-23; and B. Borell, Statuetten, Gefässe und andere Gegenstände aus Metall, Katalog der Sammlung antiker Kleinkunst des Archäologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg 3.1 (Mainz, 1989) 127-28, no. 139, pl. 52.

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • John Crawford, Sidney Goldstein, George M. A. Hanfmann, John Kroll, Judith Lerner, Miranda Marvin, Charlotte Moore, and Duane Roller, Objects of Ancient Daily Life. A Catalogue of the Alice Corinne McDaniel Collection Belonging to the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, ed. Jane Waldbaum, Department of the Classics (unpublished manuscript, 1970), M13, p. 160-61 [J. S. Crawford]
  • Henry Lie and Francesca Bewer, "Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 38-63, p. 59, fig. 2.17.
  • Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), p. 59, fig. 2.17

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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