The J. Paul Getty Museum

Hand Mirror Decorated with the Head of Medusa

Object Details

Title:

Hand Mirror Decorated with the Head of Medusa

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Greek (South Italian)

Place:

South Italy (Place Created)

Date:

500–480 B.C.

Medium:

Bronze

Object Number:

96.AC.109

Dimensions:

20.2 × 15 × 2 cm (7 15/16 × 5 7/8 × 13/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

See more

See less

Object Description

The head of the gorgon Medusa decorates the repoussé back of this hand mirror, which was made separately and then attached.  An incised Aeolic capital decorated the top of the tang, which would have slotted into a handle made from another material. The front of the mirror was polished to produce a reflective surface.

With her snaky locks of hair, tufted beard, and broad mouth with protruding tongue, Medusa stares out at the viewer, and the large eyes were once inlaid with another material, probably glass paste. The gorgon's head, with its ability to turn anyone who saw it to stone, was considered apotropaic, possessing the ability to ward off evil and bad luck. For the individual looking at themselves in the polished surface on the other side of the mirror, projecting Medusa's gaze would have repelled unkind or envious glances. 

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

True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, exh. cat. (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 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 (1997-98), p. 64.

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

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 295, fig. 454.

Sacks, David. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (New York: Facts on File, 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.

Mattusch, Carol C. Enduring Bronze: Ancient Art, Modern Views (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014), p. 74, fig. 53.