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A perforated plate with a long straight handle.

A round disc with bent edges which flow down into a long straight section which is decorated in symmetrical linework. The disc has perforations like holes which have been unevenly stabbed into it, and cracks coming from the holes. The surface on the left side is also damaged by small scattered white spots, otherwise the surface is green all over. Under the damage in very light carved lines there is a depiction of women in draping robes partially visible.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Engraved Hand Mirror with Ram's Head Terminal
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Engraved Hand Mirror: Judgment of Paris?
Work Type
first half 3rd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Umbria
Hellenistic period, Early
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3700, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Roman Art
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Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
26.3 x 12.5 x 2.5 cm (10 3/8 x 4 15/16 x 1 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 87.9; Sn, 11.75; Pb, 0.09; Zn, 0.019; Fe, 0.07; Ni, 0.03; Ag, 0.03; Sb, 0.06; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.056; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina consists of light and dark greens with smaller areas of brown. Some deep pitting covers one-quarter of both sides, but the surface with its polish is well preserved in most areas. It is possible that the degree of polish has been enhanced slightly by buffing the surface during the cleaning process. The ten puncture marks pre-date burial. The cracks and breaks are glued with a modern adhesive.

The mirror was cast as a single piece presumably using the lost-wax process. It is likely that a wax model was also cast, providing the mirror’s shape and most of the sculptural detail in the handle. Minor detail in the handle and the beaded pattern at the periphery of the mirror were added in cold working using punch tools. All of the incised decoration was made in the bronze using a pointed tool and small blows from a hammer to draw the lines.

Henry Lie (submitted 2001)


Recorded Ownership History
Henry W. Haynes collection, Boston, MA, (by 1912), bequest; to the Harvard University Department of Classics, (1912-1977), transferred; to Fogg Art Museum, 1977.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, Bequest of Henry W. Haynes, 1912
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 bronze mirror has a worn beaded border and a handle that terminates in a ram’s head. The part of the handle above the ram is modeled as a griffin. The disc is perforated with nine holes that seem to result from ten attempts at perforation; two indentations near the center of the disc may represent failed attempts at perforation. On the obverse, the top of the handle is decorated with a floral pattern. The reverse of the disc bears three figures standing before an Ionic façade. The central figure, who wears a peplos and helmet, is probably Athena (Etruscan Menrva); the other figures, a male and a female, are more difficult to identify (1). The male figure on the left, wearing a short tunic and boots, leans on a club that is similar to the one often carried by Herakles, but it is unusual for the hero to be shown clothed (2). The figure on the right is an unidentified woman wearing a peplos and Phrygian cap. A spiky garland borders the disc, and the mirror has been designated as an example of the Spiky Garland Group, named after this feature (3).

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 (4). 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 (5).

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 (6). 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 (7).


1. For possible identification of the figures, see R. De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA 2: Boston and Cambridge (Ames, IA, 1993) 61-63, no. 44. He notes that the club of the male figure may indicate that Paris is represented and that if three rather than two female figures were represented, then the scene could be identified as the Judgement of Paris. As there are only two female figures, this identification is uncertain.

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

3. See L. Bonfante, “An Etruscan Mirror with ‘Spiky Garland’ in the Getty Museum,” J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 (1980) 147-54.

4. R. De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA 2: Boston and Cambridge (Ames, IA, 1993) 59. See also 2012.1.60 for another depiction of the Dioskouroi.

5. Ibid., 61.

6. 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.

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

Kathryn R. Topper

Publication History

  • Suzannah F. Doeringer, David Gordon Mitten, and Arthur Steinberg, ed., Art and Technology: A Symposium on Classical Bronzes, M.I.T. Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), p. 60, Color Plate I.
  • Phoebe Dent Weil, "Patina: Historical Perspective on Artistic Intent and Subsequent Effects of Time, Nature, and Man", Sculptural Monuments in an Outdoor Environment, ed. Virginia Norton Naudé, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia, PA, 1985), 21-27, p. 23, fig. 21.
  • Larissa Bonfante Warren and F. Roncalli, ed., Antichita dall'Umbria a New York, exh. cat., Electa/Editori umbri associati (Perugia, Italy, 1991), p. 286-289, no. 6.11.
  • Richard De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum; U.S.A.: volume 2: Boston and Cambridge, Iowa State University Press (Ames, IA, 1993), p. 61-63, no. 44, figs. 44a-d.
  • Nancy T. de Grummond, "On Mutilated Mirrors", Votives, Places and Rituals in Etruscan Religion: Studies in Honor of Jean MacIntosh Turfa, ed. Margarita Gleba and Hilary Becker, E. J. Brill (Leiden, 2009), 171-182, no. 10, fig. 48.

Exhibition History

  • Gens Antiquissima Italiae: The Etruscans in Umbria, Grey Art Gallery, New York, 09/09/1991 - 11/02/1991
  • Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3700 Roman, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes
  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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