Egyptian Bronze Mirror with Calcite handle
Egyptian · Middle Kingdom, circa 1938-1758 B.C.
H: 30.3 cm
A beautiful example of Egyptian mirror that also shows interesting features. The disc is inserted and attached in a slot cut in the capital of the upper handle.
Mirrors are well attested from the Middle Kingdom, with a round shape referring to the solar disc. The handles are generally Hathor-shaped or, like here, papyriform. Some scholars think that the representation of the goddess Hathor (goddess of love) provides the object with an erotic nature. On the other hand, the papyriform column can be related to the hieroglyph meaning “green”, as a reference to rebirth. It should be noted, however, that other connections can be brought out: the goddess Hathor refers to vegetation and to the papyrus stalk, elements that can be linked to the rebirth of the deceased. Mirrors appeared in sarcophagi during the Middle Kingdom and were placed in the funeral trousseau for the afterlife.
The handle is in calcite (Egyptian alabaster), which is surprising because the most precious examples are usually made of ivory; it may therefore not be the original handle, especially if this artifact was the possession of one of Sesostris’ royal daughters, as a fragmentary inscription in ink on the side of the disc would suggest. Only a few parallels are known from this period and in a royal sphere: the only reference is the trousseau of one of Amenemhat III’s daughters, excavated by D. Arnold in the early 1980s. Still, this handle is finely crafted, as seen in the rendering of the capital. The whole piece may be compared to other examples and is certainly worthy of interest.
Complete and in good condition. The rather thick disc is covered with incrustations and shows a superficial wear on one side, due probably to the contact of a linen fabric. The handle is smooth and polished, minor chips.
Art market, prior to 1980;
Ex- N. Koutoulakis Collection, Geneva-Paris, ca. 1980
Ex- R. Bigler, Zurich, prior to 2005
PAD, London, 2016
LILYQUIST C., Ancient Egyptian Mirrors from the Earliest Times through the Middle Kingdom, 1979, n. 31, 55.