A wonderful and rare early Roman bronze mirror, dating between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century C.E. This two-part mirror consists of two hinged circular discs, lathe-turned and with raised lips, which nest together when the mirror is closed to protect the reflecting surface. The exterior surfaces are decorated with incised concentric rings.
The interiors were polished to function as mirrors, and still retain a small amount of the original silvered surface.
Each half of the mirror has a handle on the exterior, at the side opposite the hinge. The handle on the upper disc is inserted through two looped appliqués, both shaped like theatre masks with fine facial detail and each wearing a diadem; the reverse looped attachments in raised coil design.
The hinged mirror probably originated in fourth-century Greece and soon after made its way to Etruria. Its popularity continued in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The object opened to expose a round mirror, usually either silvered or tinned, on the lower surface. Although polished, the upper surface probably did not serve as a second mirror but as a reflector to cast light on the viewer's face. The mirror was slightly convex, which served to diminish the reflected image somewhat, so that the viewer's head and shoulders might also be seen, rather than just the face. In the absence of full-length mirrors, this would have been quite useful. The upper surface was slightly concave, so that it did not touch the mirror surface when closed (see Berlin and Biers, 2004).
Hayes (1984, p. 188-190) distinguishes larger sized mirrors (with an average diameter of 15 cm), which mainly date to Roman Imperial periods, and smaller sized ones, which are mostly earlier.
For a bronze statuette of Amor, holding out a folding mirror to a beholder who is not depicted, but could possibly be Venus, see Thorvaldsens Museum, Kopenhagen, Denmark, inv. no. H2055.
Andrea Berlin - Jane C. Biers, Testament of Time. Selected Objects from the Collection of Palestinian Antiquities in the Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia (Madison N.J., Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004), p. 125-126, no. 105;
Wolfgang Züchner, Griechische Klappspiegel (Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Ergänzungsheft 14) (Berlin, De Gruyter, 1942);
Agnes Schwarzmaier, Griechische Klappspiegel. Untersuchungen zu Typologie und Stil(Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung: Beiheft 18) (Berlin, Mann, 1997);
Gerhard Zimmer, Frühgriechische Spiegel. Aspekte technischer Neuerungen in der Antike (132. Winckelmannsprogramm der Archäologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin) (Berlin, De Gruyter, 1991), p. 28-30, fig. 30;
Boaz Zissu - Amir Ganor, "Metal Utensils from the Time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt Discovered in the Southern Judaean Foothills, Israel", Babesch, Bulletin Antieke Beschaving, Annual Papers on Mediterranean Archaeology 79 (Leuven, 2004), p.111-121, esp. p. 115-117 and figs. 10-12;
John W. Hayes, Greek, Roman and Related Metalware in the Royal Ontario Museum. A Catalogue (Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, 1984), p. 188-195, esp. 190-193, nos. 321-324, esp. 321.
Mirrors are known from ancient writings and the archaeological record; for a summary see A. de Ridder, "Speculum", in Charles Daremberg - Edmond Saglio (eds.), Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romains IV/2 (Paris, 1911), p. 1422-1430.
For the use of mirrors and cosmetics by Roman women see E. Guhl - W. Koner, Everyday Life of the Greeks and Romans (New York, Crescent, 1989), p. 499-500.
Circa 1st century B.C. - 1st century C.E.
Diameter 8.7 cm, length when fully opened 25.9 cm.
Dutch private collection, acquired from Artemis Gallery ca. 2003; previously US private collection, ca. 1970.
The mirror has been cleaned and treated for conservation; intact, with a small amount of the original silvered surface still remaining.