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Bronze mirror case with Aphrodite and Pan

 

Diameter: 18.500 cm

GR 1888.12-13.1 (Bronze 289)

Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

    Bronze mirror case with Aphrodite and Pan

    Corinthian, around 350 BC
    Said to be from Corinth, Greece

    A divine game of knuckle-bones

    In Greece and Etruria mirrors were almost always made of bronze, with just a few in silver. Around the turn of the millennium the Romans introduced glass for mirrors. Until the late fifth century BC mirrors usually consisted of a disc with a handle, either made in one with the disc or of a different material. After this date a new type of mirror came into vogue. The new mirror came in two versions. The three-part type was rather like a large modern compact mirror: the disc was enclosed in a circular box with a hinged lid. In the two-part type of mirror the disc itself formed the base of the box and the hinged lid acted as a cover. Often the lid was decorated with a scene in relief, and sometimes, as here, the inside of the lid was decorated with an incised design.

    The design on this mirror shows the goddess Aphrodite playing knucklebones with Pan. Behind her is Eros, her frequent attendant, and beneath the table is a goose, often associated with the goddess. Pan, the woodland deity who was half man and half goat, with goat's legs, tail, ears and similar facial profile, squats compactly on the table on which they play, raising a finger of his right hand as if to admonish Aphrodite or draw something to her attention. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is often represented on mirrors, frequently being dressed and beautified by her attendants.

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

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    On display: Room 20: Greeks and Lycians

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