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Greek Bronze Mirror with the Face of a woman
New York | Mirrors
 
Date:  4th Century BC3rd Century BC
Culture:  GreekHellenistic Greek
Category:  Mirrors
Medium:  Bronze
Dimension: D: 8.9 cm
Price: $25,000.00
Provenance: Ars Antiqua, Lucerne, Auktion II, May 14th 1960, lot 101, pl. 45; Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979)
Serial No: 20352

The mirror, which was cast, has a slightly concave edge and shows a series of circular lines, incised or in light relief, drawn with a compass during the finishing on a potter's wheel.
The female mask was hammered in repousse from a thin bronze plate: originally, it certainly belonged to the lid of a box mirror. The contour of the face, oval and very even, is framed by the animated mass of the hair which forms an undulating line on the forehead. As is often the case during this period, the facial features of the young woman are gentle and idealized, although being a bit impersonal and mechanical at the same time; the smooth, tight skin does not reveal any muscles or wrinkles. The eyes are almond shaped, with the iris and pupils incised, the eyelids are arch-shaped and somewhat heavy; the lips are full and the chin is prominent, albeit rounded; unlike other female heads decorating mirrors, which simply resemble medallions, the metalworker who made this object added a small neck to support the face of the woman.
A central part divides the hair on the skull: the hair falls to the temples and the ears in large, wavy locks furrowed by thin sinuous incisions; the ears are entirely covered.
As the different state of preservation and the hollow formed by the hair on the upper head would prove, the woman might have worn a diadem or a crown, now lost: this detail is relevant, because the presence of such an adornment would allow us to confidently identify the woman with a mythological figure, perhaps Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. According to many scholars who have studied these mirrors, when the crown is made of ivy or vine leaves, the face would be to identify with Ariadne: the young woman was the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, the mythological king and queen of the island of Crete. After aiding Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur (who was her half-brother), Ariadne was abandoned in Naxos. On this island, Dionysus noticed her and, struck by her beauty, married her before taking her to Mount Olympus with him: from the god of wine, she received as a gift a gold diadem crafted by Hephaestus.