Caryatid Mirror - ROM2018_16224_1


Caryatid Mirror

Medium:Bronze with incised details
Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 1550-1295 BC
Period: 18th Dynasty, New Kingdom
17.1 × 9.2 × 0.7 cm
Object number: 908.41.1
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This lovely mirror has a flattened oval disk, and a handle in the form of a young girl, naked except for a long wig or her own long hair worn in many braids, and a menat necklace.  Her arms rest demurely at her sides. A papyrus umbral rises from her head.  When it was polished, the bronze disk would have given a quite satisfactory reflection of its owner, perhaps all the more welcome for the warm colour of the reflection and an image less brutally sharp than we see nowadays in silver or glass. The wear on the figure suggests that the mirror was often used in life.

The disk is reminiscent of the slightly flattened shape of the rising and setting sun, a symbol of      regeneration. The papyrus umbral is likewise an image of fertility, and the young girl speaks of grace,          pleasure, and procreation.  Such mirrors were not simply or entirely household objects, but also carried                connotations of the goddess Hathor, and associated the owner with that goddess of beauty and love. Mirrors   like this were in fashion among the upper class during the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Images of mirrors are often found painted in tombs and coffins, and pictures of mirrors appear under the seats of women, or in their hands.  Mirrors were often included in burials as grave goods. The name for mirror shared the sound 'ankh' with the word for life, perhaps because a living image appears in it.
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