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The Desborough Mirror

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1924,0109.1

  • Title (object)

    • The Desborough Mirror
  • Description

    Bronze mirror. Reflecting surface with green patination, back of mirror highly decorated. The mirror is made from three pieces - a cast handle, the main mirror plate and a tubular binding strip around the edge. The pattern is very complex. It has a symetrical outline in the form of a lyre with flanking coils. The pattern may have been laid out using a pair of compasses. Parts of the decoration are engraved, using a graver, with a basket-weave pattern and hatched texturing to make the pattern stand out.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 50 BC - AD 50 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 350 millimetres (total length)
    • Length: 239 millimetres (mirror without handle)
    • Width: 258 millimetres (mirror)
    • Thickness: 5 millimetres (mirror)
    • Width: 69 millimetres (base of handle)
    • Width: 30 millimetres (top and middle of handle)
    • Length: 115 millimetres (handle)
    • Thickness: 10 millimetres (top of handle)
    • Thickness: 6 millimetres (base of handle)
    • Weight: 561 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    This bronze mirror is one of the finest examples of La Tène, or 'Celtic' art from Britain. The plate was highly polished on one side to produce a reflective surface. One the back the plate was engraved with a complex design. A mirror would have been a powerful object in a world where reflections could only be glimpsed in water. A person using a mirror would control how they looked using the mirror in combination with tweezers or shears. Decorated mirrors of this type are uniquely British, very few are found on the continent. The majority are from graves dating between 100BC and AD 100 (see Joy 2010).

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  • Bibliography

    • Smith 1909 bibliographic details
    • Stead 1997 bibliographic details
    • Joy 2010 no. 24 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc22

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2016 11 Mar- 25 Sep, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Celts. 2015-2016 24 Sep-31 Jan, London, BM, G30, 'Celts: Art and Identity' 2012 15 Sep-2013 17 Feb, Germany, Stuttgart, Landesmuseum Württemberg, The World of the Celts: Treasures of Art 1998 18 Apr-12 Jul, Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Celtic Art

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1924

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1924,0109.1

Bronze mirror.  Reflecting surface with green patination, back of mirror highly decorated.   The mirror is made from three pieces - a cast handle, the main mirror plate and a tubular binding strip around the edge. The pattern is very complex: a basic clover-leaf pattern is symmetrically repeated on the left- and right-hand side of the mirror. The pattern may have been laid out using a pair of compasses.  Parts of the decoration are engraved, using a graver, with a basket-weave pattern and hatched texturing to make the pattern stand out.

Bronze mirror. Reflecting surface with green patination, back of mirror highly decorated. The mirror is made from three pieces - a cast handle, the main mirror plate and a tubular binding strip around the edge. The pattern is very complex: a basic clover-leaf pattern is symmetrically repeated on the left- and right-hand side of the mirror. The pattern may have been laid out using a pair of compasses. Parts of the decoration are engraved, using a graver, with a basket-weave pattern and hatched texturing to make the pattern stand out.

Image description

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