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Work Mirror

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Miroir à manche gravé

© Photo RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

During the classical and Hellenistic periods, Etruscan craftsmen excelled in the production of bronze mirrors decorated with mythological scenes. This example depicts Turan (Aphrodite), identified by an inscription, riding a swan while making the gesture of anakalypsis (unveiling). This subject, which was particularly appropriate for items of toiletry, appeared first in Greece in the fifth century BCE, and was successfully revived in Etruria in the fourth century.

Etruscan engraved mirrors

In the fourth and third century BCE, the Etruscans excelled particularly in their prolific production of engraved mirrors, a luxury item for women's toilet, decorated with a variety of scenes borrowed from Hellenic or local mythology. This mirror, dating from the late fourth century BCE, is an example of the most widespread type. The handle, cast at the same time as the disc, terminates in the head of a hind, a symbol of femininity. The reflective surface of the disc is slightly convex, and the back is decorated with incised motifs.

Turan riding a swan

The subject depicted on this mirror is particularly suitable both for its function and for the circular surface to which the craftsman was restricted. The disc is framed by a garland of laurel leaves. The medallion in the center features the goddess Turan, the Etruscan Aphrodite, identified in inscription (which reads from right to left) near the young woman's face. The goddess rides a swan, one of her customary companions. With wings outspread, the bird holds a branch in its beak. Turan winds her left arm round the swan's neck, while with her right hand she draws aside a panel of her garment, as though unveiling herself (in Greek, the gesture of 'anakalypsis').

An echo of ancient Greek and Italian painted motifs

A number of Etruscan mirrors are decorated with a similar scene, differing only in detail. The motif appeared in Greece in the fifth century BCE, notably on painted terracotta vases.

Bibliography

D. Emmanuel-Rebuffat, Corpus speculorum etruscorum, 1, I, 1988, n 1, pp. 27-8.

Technical description

  • Miroir à manche gravé

    4e quart du IVe siècle avant J.-C.

    Production : Etrurie

  • H. : 28,8 cm. ; D. : 13,9 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1863

    Aphrodite sur le cygne avec inscription donnant son nom (Turan)

    Br 1720

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Ground floor
    Etruria III
    Room 20
    Vitrine 2

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Additional information about the work

Sinistrograde (right to left) inscription near the face of the goddess Turan