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Bronze mirror showing Herekele and Mlacuch


Diameter: 18.000 cm
Weight: 848.000 g

Sir William Hamilton Collection

GR 1772.3-4.7.4 (Bronze 542)

Room 71: Etruscan world

    Bronze mirror showing Herekele and Mlacuch

    Etruscan, about 500-475 BC
    Said to be from Atri, Abruzzi, Italy

    The Greek hero Herakles in an Etruscan guise

    The scene shows Herekele (the Etruscan name for Herakles) lifting up a woman called Mlacuch, perhaps trying to abduct her. The names are inscribed beside the figures, written right to left as usual with the Etruscan script. This episode, not known in Greek legend, appears to be an Etruscan version of one of the hero's exploits. The name Mlacuch is otherwise not known. Herekele/Herakles is shown as usual with a club and lion-skin.

    Around 3,000 Etruscan bronze hand-mirrors have survived. They were produced between the late sixth and second centuries BC and were clearly among the favourite personal possessions of the Etruscans, often being buried with them in their tombs. The polished bronze would have presented a very clear reflection, though with a yellowish hue. The tang was for insertion into a handle of another material - wood, bone or ivory - but later examples were made complete with a handle in bronze.

    This is one of only five or six examples where the decoration on the back is cast in relief, rather than being incised as with most of the mirrors. It may not have proved popular because of the weight: this one weighs 848 grammes. The mirror also has silver applied to highlight the decoration: it forms the bands between the double palmettes of the border, a band around the rim and globules at the base of the reflecting side of the disc.

    E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

    O. Brendel, Etruscan art, Pelican History of Art (Yale University Press, 1995)

    J. Swaddling, Etruscan Mirrors - Great Brita (London, British Museum Press, 2001)

    S. Haynes, Etruscan bronzes (London, Sotheby's Publications, 1985)

    L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


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