Hand Mirror Decorated with the Head of Medusa

Object Details

Title:

Hand Mirror Decorated with the Head of Medusa

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Greek (South Italian)

Date:

500 - 480 B.C.

Medium:

Bronze

Dimensions:

20.2 x 15 cm (7 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

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The head of the gorgon Medusa decorates the repoussé back of this hand mirror. With her snaky locks of hair, tufted beard, and broad mouth with protruding tongue, this monstrous creature stares out at the viewer. The large eyes were once inlaid with another material, probably glass paste. The head of the gorgon, with its ability to turn the observer to stone, served a fairly standard purpose in Greek art. It was considered apotropaic, possessing the ability to ward off evil. Some further commentary on the duality of beauty and ugliness may also have been in the artist's mind.

This back was made separately and attached to the mirror. On the other side, incised decoration surrounded the polished bronze reflecting surface. An incised Aeolic capital decorated the top of the tang, which would have slotted into a handle made from another material.

Provenance
- 1987

Fritz Bürki & Son (Zurich, Switzerland), sold to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1987.

1987 - 1996

Barbara Fleischman

and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

Exhibitions
A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995) (53)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 13, 1994 to January 15, 1995
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland), February 14 to April 23, 1995
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004) (53)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
Bibliography

True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1994. pp. 118-19, cat. no. 53.

"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust, 1997-1998. p. 64.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) p. 109.

Sacks, David. Encyclopedia of the Anciet Greek World (New York: Facts on File, Inc, 2005) p. 205, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 107.