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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2012.1.59
Title
Hand Mirror
Classification
Mirrors
Work Type
mirror
Date
first half 3rd century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Period
Hellenistic period
Culture
Etruscan
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/175911
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Copper alloy
Technique
Hammered
Dimensions
18.7 x 10.2 x 0.2 cm (7 3/8 x 4 x 1/16 in.)
66.2 g
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with lighter green spots. Dark brown accretions and raised corrosion products are present. The shiny mirror surface at the convex side is preserved over about one-tenth of its area. A 1-cm crack is present near the top edge.

The thin, relatively planar shape of the mirror could point to its having been formed by hammering rather than the more complex procedure of bronze casting. There is a slight bevel at the edge of the shiny side, and the edge itself has been thickened slightly by hammering it toward the center. The concave side shows strong vertical scrape marks under the accretions and raised corrosion. Areas here are sometimes shiny, but the relief of the scrape marks makes it less likely that this side served as a mirror. The very fine striations and chatter marks in each scrape mark show a remarkable degree of surface preservation on this side. There are several rough-filed grooves near the tip of the handle, which appear to be the only form of decoration.


Henry Lie (submitted 2011)

Provenance
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
2012
Object Number
2012.1.59
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This mirror is fairly thin, with a very slight curve in section. The edges of the mirror are also very thin and have been worked, with a slight groove around the circumference. The terminal of the handle or tang is carved, perhaps to represent a stylized animal; it is slightly concave on one side. The mirror is otherwise undecorated (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).

NOTES:

1. R. De Puma suggests a Praenestine origin for this mirror and provides a series of comparanda; see id., Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA 2: Boston and Cambridge (Ames, IA, 1993) 56, no. 33.

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), M9, p. 159 [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. 56, no. 33, figs. 33a-c (as McDaniel No. 2).

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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 am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu