Caryatid Mirror

Cleveland Museum of Art

About the work

This superb mirror has an oval disk and a handle in the form of a nubile young girl, entirely naked except for her elaborately braided tripartite wig, broad collar, and a girdle of wallet beads. She stands on a cruciform base, with her left foot slightly advanced and her hands at her sides. On her head and supporting the disk is a papyrus umbel with flaring tips. Mirrors with handles in the form of naked young girls were the height of fashion in mid-Dynasty 18; numerous examples exist. This mirror is perhaps the finest of its kind. The cruciform base is unusual, if not unique. The iconography is understandable in relation to the goddess Hathor, the embodiment of love and beauty. A multifaceted goddess, she was equated with Aphrodite by the Greeks. The retinue of Hathor consisted precisely of such beauties, called nefrut in Egyptian, and the mirror itself, that reflection of beauty, appears to have had Hathorian connections from early times.

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