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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Winged Caryatid Mirror Support
Work Type
mirror handle
mid to late 6th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Corinth? (Corinthia)
Archaic period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
20 x 10 x 2.5 cm (7 7/8 x 3 15/16 x 1 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 78.75; Sn, 6.79; Pb, 14.15; Zn, 0.007; Fe, 0.02; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.02; Sb, 0.06; As, 0.17; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.015; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with the areas of brown especially on the mirror cradle and at the back. The figure is intact, although casting flaws are present.

The object is a hollow cast. Black core is visible at a casting flaw in the lower legs. On the underside, a 1-cm circular area of bronze, flush with the bottom of the small base, is surrounded by a depression containing remains of investment material that matches the core. This structure may be explained by assuming an indirect casting process that involved a plug of wax being inserted into the hollow opening of a wax model after adding the core material through the opening. Added wax at this location might have been intended to facilitate the flow of the metal into the mold. The resulting “channel” under the feet of the figure may also have facilitated its attachment to a larger base. A flaw (0.9 x 1.2 cm) at the right armpit is covered with a crude ancient patch. This flaw and a small hole at the left armpit are probably the result of shifting core material. An x-radiograph of the object shows that the core shifted to the right at the feet, resulting in a thinner wall at the right and a thicker one at the left. The hole at the right leg, which exposes the core, probably appeared only after the thin wall corroded. The mirror disc was soldered on; traces of lead solder remain on the cradle. All of the surface decoration was punched in the metal or incised with a tracer tool.

Henry Lie (submitted 2000)


Recorded Ownership History
Art market, 1937. Jacob Hirsch, sold, 1941; to Frederick M. Watkins, New Haven, CT, bequest; to the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, 1972.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frederick M. Watkins
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
Standing erect on a small, irregularly shaped base, this slim female figure formed the support of a now-lost mirror disc. The brace for the mirror is set on her head and worked as a unit with the flat, sickle-shaped wings rising from her shoulders. With the hands placed on the hips, the bent arms anticipate the curve of the wings and act as a crossbar to the straight lower body. Although the figure has all the qualities of a handle, it probably was originally equipped with a larger base and served as a stand.

Despite casting flaws, the caryatid was repaired and finished with traced and punched detail, most of which is restricted to the front. The figure wears a short-sleeved upper garment with a hatched collar, low belt, and oblique hem over a long, pleated chiton. The buttons along the sleeves are rendered as punched circles, and the front is decorated with rows of scales. Scales and hatching on the wings indicate feathers, punched circles embellish the border of the mirror cradle, and a zigzag ornament encircles the base. The reverse side of both the cradle and wings is plain. The wavy hair falls down the back in a cursorily rendered mass held by a fillet and subdivided into fourteen strands by vertical lines. The proper right ear is missing and indicated by an incision.

Following Egyptian models, such mirrors were first made in Laconia, where the caryatid usually took the form of a nude girl. An origin in South Italy (Magna Graecia) has been suggested for this early dressed example. However, there are no close parallels among bronzes commonly attributed to western workshops, and it may be more fruitful to emphasize those features that recall Corinthian works of the sixth century BCE: the slender body, the elongated face with slightly protruding, wide-set eyes and unsmiling mouth, and the hairstyle preserving elements of the Daedalic “wig” (1). The winged figure combines traits of anthropomorphic mirror handles with those of gorgon and sphinx vessel attachments; in fact, the arms placed akimbo and the peculiar upper garment echo depictions of gorgons (2). This caryatid has been thought to represent Nike but may also represent the goddess Artemis as mistress of animals, who is often shown winged during the Archaic period.


1. See K. Wallenstein, Korinthische Plastik des 7. und 6. Jahrhunderts vor Christus (Bonn, 1971) for a discussion of terracottas and bronzes; L. O. K. Congdon, Caryatid Mirrors of Ancient Greece (Mainz, 1981) 64-68, 131-33, 135-36, and 138, nos. 7, 9, 13, and 16, pls. 5-6, 9, 11, for mirror caryatids attributed to Corinth; and C. M. Stibbe, The Sons of Hephaistos: Aspects of the Archaic Greek Bronze Industry (Rome, 2000) 51-52, for the hairstyle.

2. Compare the gorgons on a volute krater and stand from Trebenishte assigned to a Corinthian craftsman by Stibbe 2000 (supra 1) 88-98, figs. 56-59 and 62. For another winged mirror caryatid and a figure with animals and winged boots, see Congdon 1981 (supra 1) 211-12, nos. 115-16, pls. 94-95.

Susanne Ebbinghaus

Publication History

  • U. Jantzen, Bronzewerkestätten in Grossgriechenland und Sizilien, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Arc, Walter de Gruyter and Co. (Berlin, Germany, 1937), p. 7, no. 110, pl. 26.
  • David Gordon Mitten and Suzannah F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World, exh. cat., Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz am Rhein, Germany, 1967), p. 81, no. 75.
  • Hans Jucker, "Etruscan Votive Bronzes of Populonia", Art and Technology: a Symposium on Classical Bronzes, ed. Suzannah F. Doeringer, M.I.T. Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), pp. 195-219, esp. 200-203.
  • The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973), pp. 18-19, no. 3.
  • Ancient Greece: Life and Art, The Newark Museum (Newark, NJ, 1980), no. 64.
  • Lenore O. Keene Congdon, Caryatid Mirrors of Ancient Greece, Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz, 1981), p. 226-27.
  • David Gordon Mitten and Amy Brauer, Dialogue with Antiquity, The Curatorial Achievement of George M. A. Hanfmann, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 13, no. 34.
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Artemis (Zürich, Switzerland, 1999), Vol. 6, Nike 44.
  • [Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Winter 2007)., [Cover illustration].
  • Richard Neer, The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture, University of Chicago Press (Chicago and London, 2010), pp. 135-137, fig. 82

Exhibition History

  • Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/04/1967 - 01/23/1968; City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 03/01/1968 - 04/13/1968; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 05/08/1968 - 06/30/1968
  • The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973
  • Ancient Greece: Life and Art, The Newark Museum, 02/02/1980 - 03/16/1980
  • Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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