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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Engraved Mirror
Work Type
first half 4th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Classical period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
19.7 x 13.4 x 0.2 cm (7 3/4 x 5 1/4 x 1/8 in.)
258.9 g
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is green with some intact brown burial accretions. Most of the obverse surface is well preserved; deeply pitted areas are limited to the edge. Approximately half of the reverse surface is fairly well preserved, and the rest is deeply pitted. The present tang is a replacement repair of the lost original. It was probably formed by cold working, and the fan-shape that was hammered at the top allows three rivets with peened heads to attach it firmly to the front surface of the lower edge of the disc. The tang is also deeply pitted and appears to pre-date burial.

The mirror was probably cast. The decorative engraved lines near the handle were cut into the surface with a sharp point. The edge is decorated at the back with a fine line of stamped bead decoration.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: Small tan label "M3".


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 circular mirror has a separate handle attached with three rivets, perhaps to replace an original handle that had broken off. The handle is a very thin rod that tapers to a point. The obverse of the mirror has a beaded or notched border around the edge. Incised above the handle are a palmette and volutes with leaves. The rivets to attach the handle pierce the decoration. The reverse surface is well preserved and retains a high polish; this side is slightly concave (1).

There are ten Etruscan bronze mirrors in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums, ranging in date from the early fifth century to the mid second century BCE. All the mirrors bear engraved designs, and the more elaborately decorated medallions contain scenes involving human or divine figures. Identifiable subjects include a seated Hermes and Lasa (1932.56.38), as well as two young men wearing short chitons and Phrygian caps on 1932.56.37, who may be the Dioskouroi (2). The subjects depicted on other mirrors are more difficult to identify with certainty. One such example is a scene depicting two young men flanking two women, one of whom is nude, in front of an architectural structure (1977.216.1995.A-B); it has been suggested that the figures may be Helen, Clytemnestra, and the Dioskouroi (3). Another scene, less well preserved, shows a figure wearing a peplos and helmet flanked on the left by a man in a short tunic and boots, and on the right by an unidentified woman wearing a peplos and Phrygian cap (1977.216.2311). The central figure is most likely Athena (Etruscan Menrva), and while the figure on the left leans on a club similar to the one often carried by Herakles, it is unusual for that hero to be shown clothed (4). The three stand before a two-story Ionic structure.

Two mirrors in the collection show signs of an interesting afterlife. The disc of 1977.216.2311 has been perforated in ten places, probably as a means of ensuring that the object would be useless to the living and could be permanently dedicated to the deceased; a less plausible suggestion is that the mirror was reused as a strainer (5). Another mirror in the collection (1977.216.3422), if it is ancient, seems to have been reworked in modern times by an engraver who added to the medallion a female bust, a recumbent male, and an inscription. Neither the style nor the subject of the engraving corresponds to examples known from other Etruscan mirrors, and both the engraving and the inscription appear to have been made with a modern instrument (6).


1. R. De Puma notes several similar mirrors, all without provenience; see id., Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA 2: Boston and Cambridge (Ames, IA, 1993) 58, no. 37.

2. Ibid., 59. See also 2012.1.60 for another depiction of the Dioskouroi.

3. Ibid., 61.

4. Ibid., 62; and id. in Antichità dall’Umbria a New York, exh. cat., ed. L. Bonfante and F. Roncalli (Perugia, 1991) 288.

5. For the suggested use as a strainer, see D. B. Tanner, “Etruscan Art in the Fogg Museum,” Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 3.1 (1933): 12-17, esp. 16. For ritual dedication, see De Puma 1991 (supra 3) 288-89, no. 6.11; id. 1993 (supra 1) 62; and N. T. de Grummond, “On Mutilated Mirrors,” in Votives, Places, and Rituals in Etruscan Religion: Studies in Honor of Jean MacIntosh Turfa, ed. M. Gleba and H. Becker (Leiden, 2009) 171-82.

6. De Puma 1993 (supra 1) 63-64.

Lisa M. Anderson and Kathryn R. Topper

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), M3, p. 153-54 [J. S. Crawford]
  • Richard De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum; U.S.A.: volume 2: Boston and Cambridge, Iowa State University Press (Ames, IA, 1993), p. 58, no. 37, figs. 37a-d (as McDaniel No. 7).

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at