Hand Mirror with the Head of Medusa
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Bruce White Photography
Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

Greek, South Italy, 500 - 480 B.C.
7 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.

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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.