Bronze Mirror, c. 480 BC
30.8 (height) cm
Locri Epizephyrii (modern Calabria), Italy


From as far back as 8th century BC, the Greeks began to establish settlements in southern Italy and Sicily, and there were eventually so many that the Romans named the region Magna Graecia (Great Greece). Dating from around 480 BC, this exquisite bronze hand mirror was produced in a workshop in the area now known as Calabria. Similar mirrors are seen used by seated young women shown on Athenian and South Italian red-figured pottery.
Continuing a tradition extending back more than 2,000 years (in Egypt and China), this mirror was made from bronze shaped into a disc and originally highly polished. The rim is decorated with beading. Though now corroded and no longer functional as a mirror, originally the reflective side would have a fair impression of the user’s appearance. Beneath the mirror and above the tang, which fitted into a handle of another material, are a winged female, likely to represent the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and Eros, god of desire. Figures of the two deities were often used to decorate beauty equipment.
In antiquity, bronze hand mirrors were precious and costly items, available to only the wealthiest of individuals. Relatively few were made in silver, while the first mention of glass mirrors is by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD.


Related Projects