A delicate bronze mirror, rare and with a great provenance, dating to the New Kingdom of Egypt. It was cast in two pieces, the disk and the handle. The thin disk has a slightly ellipsoidal form and a tang, that neatly fits into a hole in the top of the handle and is held in place by a small bronze rivet. The handle is in the shape of a papyrus column, surmounted by flaring umbels which are typical for the period. When made, the disk was burnished to a gleaming reflective surface; it now features a fine deep green-brown patina.
Mirrors were full of symbolic meaning, being related to the sun. Their shiny appearance copied that of the sun disk, as did their shape which usually is not completely circular but a bit oval, just like the sun itself (which is an oblate spheroid, especially when seen near the horizon). The handle of a mirror often also display symbols. The grip can have the shape of a divine standard or, more frequently, shows a depiction of the goddess Hathor or has the shape of a papyrus stalk; both were connected to sexuality, fertility and rebirth. The same applies to handles in the form of nude female figures.
Ancient Egyptian words to indicate a mirror illustrate this connection to the sun and resurrection clearly: "ankh" (a homonym with the word ankh, "life"), or more completely "ankh en maa her" (mirror to see the face), iten" (homonym with the word iten or Aten, "sun disk") "the divine", "the Heliopolitan", "the one who is in eternity", "the one who opens the face" (the mirror revealed the face, parallel to what happened during the daily ritual in the temple, where the opening up of the shrine revealed the statue of the god).
It is therefore understandable that mirrors accompanied the dead into the afterlife. They were often depicted on the inside of Middle Kingdom coffins, sometimes on the eastern panel, in front of the face of the mummy which was lying on its left side, watching the rising sun. But also real mirrors were part of the tomb equipment. Sometimes they were put between the bandages of the mummy, also as small amulets, usually of faience.
The Phillip Adams Gallery. Egyptian Exhibition, April to May 31, 1977 (Sydney, Australia, 1977), no. 105(b).
Christine Lilyquist, Ancient Egyptian Mirrors from the Earliest Times through the Middle Kingdom (Münchner Ägyptologische Studien, 27) (München und Berlin, 1979);
Constance Husson, L'offrande du miroir dans les temples égyptiens de l'époque gréco-romaine. Lyon, 1977;
Georges Bénédite, Miroirs (Catalogue Général des Antiquités Égyptiennes du Musée du Caire, Nos. 44001-44102) (Le Caire, 1907);
Claire Evrard-Derriks, "Le miroir représenté sur les peintures et bas-reliefs égyptiens", in: Miscellanea in honorem Josephi Vergote. Edenda curaverunt P. Naster, H. De Meulenaere et J. Quaegebeur (Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica 6/7) (Leuven, 1975-1976), p. 223-229;
Claire Derriks, Les miroirs cariatides égyptiens en bronze. Typologie, chronologie et symbolisme (Münchner Ägyptologische Studien, 51). (Mainz am Rhein, Von Zabern, 2001);
Heinrich Schäfer, "Die Ausdeutung der Spiegelplatte als Sonnenscheibe", Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache and Altertumskunde 68 (1932), p. 1-7;
Erik Hornung, E. und Elisabeth Staehelin, Skarabäen und andere Siegelamulette aus Basler Sammlungen (Ägyptische Denkmäler in der Schweiz, 1) (Mainz am Rhein, Von Zabern, 1976), p. 140-141;
Joachim F. Quack, "Das nackte Mädchen im Griff halten. Zur Deutung der ägyptischen Karyatidenspiegel", Die Welt des Orients 33 (2003), p. 44-64;
Léon Anlen - Roger Padiou, Les miroirs de bronze anciens. Symbolisme et tradition. Collection des auteurs et pièces de musées (Tredaniel, 1989);
Jeanne Vandier d'Abbadie, Catalogue des objets de toilette égyptiens. Musée du Louvre, Departement des antiquities égyptiennes (Paris, Éditions des musées nationaux, 1972);
Rita E. Freed, Egypt’s Golden Age. The Art of Living in the New Kingdom 1558-1085 BC (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1982);
Jacques F. Aubert – Liliane Aubert, Bronzes et or égyptiens (Paris, 2001).
New Kingdom, 18th dynasty, ca. 1550 - 1300 B.C.
Height: 17 cm; diameter of disk 9.3 cm maximum.
Collection of Phillip Adams, Sydney, Australia, since the 1970; thence with Sands of Time Ancient Art, Washington DC, USA.
Phillip Adams (born 1939) is an Australian humanist, who had careers in advertising, journalism, film production and broadcasting. He is well known for hosting a program on Australian national radio and for writing a weekly column for an Australian newspaper, and has served on many non-profit boards. Adams is Honorary Doctor of several universities, and has received numerous honours and awards, among them Officer of the Order of Australia, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. An asteroid, discovered in 1990, was named after Adams by the International Astronomical Union ("5133 Phillipadams").
Intact with some minor surface scratching and with a deep green-brown patina; the handle has possibly been reattached; in a very good condition overall. Comes with a custom made stand. A rare example.