Ancient Art

Etruscan (Corneto or Tarquinia)
Hand Mirror with the Judgment of Paris
ca. 300 - 150 B.C.
Cast bronze, with incised decoration
Overall: 9 3/4 x 4 7/8 in. (24.7 x 12.5 cm)
Diameter of figured panel: 3 3/8 in. (8.5 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1942
AMAM 1942.122

With its precisely yet fluidly drawn scene of the Judgement of Paris, this cast-bronze hand mirror vividly illustrates how the Etruscans appropriated Greek mythological subjects and incorporated them into a well-developed vocabulary of decorative motifs.

The hand mirrors made from around 530 to 100 B.C. in Etruria, between the Tiber and the Arno Rivers, form one of the most important visual sources for our knowledge of Etruscan religion and mythology. 1 The convex surfaces of these mirrors reflect, or used to reflect, the viewer's face; the concave sides are usually incised with a mythological scene.

Although unsigned, the mirrors have disparate stylistic characteristics that allow us to attribute their production to individual artistic hands or workshops. Because of the garland of spiky leaves that encloses the central figural scene, as well as the distinctive rendering of the figures, their contours, costumes, and details, the decorations on the Oberlin mirror have been assigned to the "Spiky Garland Group" (Kranzspiegelgruppe). 2

The identification of the mythological scene depicted on the Oberlin mirror is confirmed by the four names incised in Etruscan script in the beveled outer border, each name adjacent to the figure it identifies. The seated youth is thus identified as elaxsntre [sic] (Alexandros, the Etruscan equivalent to Paris); the standing female nude facing him is Turan (equivalent to the Greek Aphrodite or Roman Venus). The larger, frontally disposed female figure is Uni (Greek Hera or Roman Juno), and the helmeted and robed goddess to the right is Menerfa (Greek Athena or Roman Minerva). 3

Alexandros sits on a rock, wearing the floppy Phrygian cap that often identifies Trojans and other easterners. The cord worn diagonally over his right shoulder and across his torso may have been a sword belt. He wears ankle-high laced boots (or sandals). His left hand, fallen by his side, grasps a lagobolon, or hare-hunting stick.

Standing facing him in three-quarter view is Turan, nude except for laced boots, a diadem, and a spiral bracelet on her left wrist. 4 The voluptuous curves of her nude body and her beckoning gesture, as well as her proximity to Alexandros, suggest that his decision has already been made.

The centrally placed Uni is also nude except for a length of drapery wrapped around her right leg and left shoulder. 5 She wears a pair of spiral bracelets, laced boots, a torque around her neck, and, over her right shoulder, a diagonally passing cord, from which smaller pendants hang.

Menerfa is most easily recognized because of her costume and attributes. 6 She wears a Corinthian-type helmet and a chiton with an incised aegis, or bib, of scaly gorgon skin tied at the back of the waist. The elliptical contours of what may be a shield rendered in profile appear along the border of the composition below her. 7

The lines of the composition are elegantly and economically incised, with no overlapping lines or other evidence of hasty work. The sensuous poses and contours of the figures, the actively curving fingers, and the intricate, concentrically curled locks of hair on the goddesses reveal the individualistic and unhesitating hand of a master draftsman. 8

The handle of the Oberlin mirror includes a flared extension, 9 and motifs based on the acanthus leaf, griffin heads, and a ram's head at the tip. The surface of these cast elements are intensively cold-worked, covered with minute punched dots and incised ornamental lines.

The complex intertwining of figural and vegetal elements on the handle invites comparison with Celtic metalwork of the La Tène period (ca. 400-100 B.C.). Major Celtic incursions into the Po Valley and other parts of northern and central Italy injected much distinctively Celtic artistic stimuli into Etruscan art in general. 10
D. G. Mitten



Found near Tarquinia (or Corneto)
With Pasinati (Rome), by 1878
Collection Louis E. Lord
Acquired by Oberlin College in 1937 11
Purchased by the museum in 1942


Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, 1958. The Etruscans, Artists of Early
. No cat.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1967-68. Master Bronzes from the Classical World. 4 December - 23 January (also shown at City Art Museum of St. Louis, and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art). Cat. no. 218.


Gamurrini, G. F. Appendice al Corpus Inscriptionarum Italicarum. Florence, 1880, p. 66, no. 772.
Klügmann, Adolf, and Gustav Körte. Etruskische Spiegel. Berlin, 1897, pp. 126-27, pl. 98, 2.
Lord, Louis E. "The Judgement of Paris on Etruscan Mirrors." American Journal of Archaeolog 41 (1937), pp. 602-6, figs. 5, 7.
Bloch, Raymond. "Volsinies étrusque et romaine. Nouvelles decouvertes archéologiques et épigraphiques." Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'École Française de Rome 62 (1950), pp. 94-98, fig. 22.
Picard, Charles. Revue archéologique 37 (1951), p. 281.
Clairmont, Christoph. Das Parisurteil in der antiken Kunst. Zurich, 1951, p. 67, K 207.
Bloch, Raymond. The Etruscans. London, 1958; reprint, 1965, fig. 36.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 206a; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 168.

Mitten, David Gordon, and Suzannah F. Doeringer. Master Bronzes from the Classical World (Mainz, 1967), p. 215, cat. no. 218.
Rebuffat-Emmanuel, Denise. Le Miroir étrusque d'aprés la Collection du Cabinet des Medailles. Rome, 1973, pp. 466-67, pl. 86.
Bonfante, Larissa. "An Etruscan Mirror with 'Spiky Garland' in the
Getty Museum." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 (1980), pp. 149, n. 16; 152, fig. 8.
Petit, Judith. "Un nouveau miroir étrusque." La Revue du Louvre 31, no. 1 (1982), pp. 30-31, fig. 5.
Bloch, Raymond (with Nicole Minot). "Aphrodite/Turan." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC). Zurich/Munich, 1984, vol. 2, part 1, p. 172, no. 19; vol. 2, part 2, pl. 173, no. 19.
Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese. "Paridis Iudicium." In Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC). Zurich/Munich, 1984, vol. 7, part 1, p. 176-88.
De Puma, Richard D. Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA I: Midwestern Collections. Ames, Iowa, 1987, pp. 47-48, no. 28; figs. 28 a-d.
Höckmann, Ursula. "Die Datierung der hellenistisch-etruskischen Spigels des 2.
Jahrhunderts v. Chr." Jahrbuch des Deutschen archäologischen Instituts 102 (1987), p. 265, n. 66; p. 269, fig. 23; p. 271, n. 105.


De Simone, Carlo. Die griechische Entlehnungen im Etruskischen. Wiesbaden, 1968, vol. 1, p. 57 (11).
Pallottino, Massimo, and Maristella Pandolfini Angeletti. Thesaurus Linguae Etruscae I. Indice Lessicale. Rome, 1978, pp. 125, 240, 349, 357.

Technical Data

The mirror was cast in one piece by the lost wax process, then intensively chased, cold-worked, and incised with the mythological scene and its framing elements. The entire periphery of the disc is marked by deep close-set notches. On the obverse, a row of tiny incised or punched tongues or half-circles marks the inner edge of this periphery. The reverse, which bears the incised figural scene, consists of three concentric elements: the central disc, with the scene; a slightly raised border, 1.1 cm wide, with the framing "spiky garland"; and a beveled outer zone, 0.8 cm wide, with the inscriptions. The figural scene, "spiky garland," and four inscriptions are all incised with a pointed tool that seems to have produced a line with rounded concave contour. The inciser worked with a sure hand; there are no interrupted or overlapping lines. The extent to which these lines have been retouched in modern times or have been enhanced by filling with a white substance remains unclear.
The mirror was dented and shattered into several fragments by a severe blow delivered to the lower left quadrant of the reflecting side (obverse). It has been reconstituted in recent times from several fragments. Three major pieces comprise the central disc, the lower left edge of the disc with the handle, and a segment of the right edge of the disc. These pieces were joined by the addition of a metallic fill that also eliminated the gap formed by a missing fragment and restored the mirror to a structurally sound state. A large area of the obverse has been stripped to bare metal, which shows cracks as well as surface scratches. Patches of red copper oxide (cuprite) are visible on the upper right area of the obverse.
Virtually the entire reverse is covered with a uniform dark green to brown patina, worn through to shiny brown highlights on raised areas. The extension and handle also display light to dark greenish-brown surfaces, again with shiny metal exposed in relief areas, such as the terminal ram's head and addorsed griffin heads behind it on the grip.


1. On Etruscan mirrors, see J. D. Beazley, "The World of the Etruscan Mirror," Journal of Hellenic Studies 69 (1949), pp. 1-17; and N. T. de Grummond, ed., A Guide to Etruscan Mirrors (Tallahassee, Fla., 1982). The comprehensive publication of all Etruscan mirrors, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum (in progress) is now replacing the masterful but out-of-date German corpus, Eduard Gerhard, Adolf Klügmann, and Gustav Körte, Etruskische Spiegel (Berlin, 1867-93). For other Etruscan mirrors depicting the Judgment of Paris, see Louis E. Lord, "The Judgement of Paris on Etruscan Mirrors," American Journal of Archaeology 41 (1937), pp. 602-6.

2. The "Spiky Garland Group" of mirrors was first distinguished by J. D. Beazley (cf. Larissa Bonfante, "An Etruscan Mirror with 'Spiky Garland' in the Getty Museum," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 [1980], p. 147, n. 4), and by R. Herbig, in Studi Etruschi 24 [1955-56], pp. 183-205. The group has since been augmented by Bonfante (op. cit., pp. 147-54) and by Richard D. De Puma (Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA I: Midwestern Collections [Ames, Iowa, 1987], no. 28, pp. 47-48), who associates the Oberlin mirror with five others. See also Larissa Bonfante, "The Spiky Garland Group," in N. T. de Grummond, ed., A Guide to Etruscan Mirrors (Tallahassee, Fla., 1982), pp. 157-60.

3. For drawings and transcriptions of the inscribed names on the Oberlin mirror, see Richard D. De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA I: Midwestern Collections (Ames, Iowa, 1987), no. 28, pp. 47-48, with bibliography, p. 47. For an earlier Etruscan mirror similarly incised, see Ines Jucker, "Ein etruskischer Spiegel mit Parisurteil," Museum Helveticum 39 (1982), pp. 5-14. On the Etruscan language and script, see Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language (Manchester, England, 1983).

4. For Turan, see Raymond Bloch (with Nicole Minot), "Aphrodite/Turan," in Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), vol. 2, part 1(Zurich/Munich, 1984), pp. 169-74. On the pose of the Oberlin Turan and others similar to it, see Ursula Höckmann, "Die Datierung der hellenistisch-etruskische Griffspiegel des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.," Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 102 (1987), pp. 247-89, esp. p. 271; the poses lead her to propose a date for this group of mirrors in the second century B.C. However, Bonfante ("The Spiky Garland Group," in N. T. de Grummond, ed., A Guide to Etruscan Mirrors [Tallahassee, Fla., 1982], pp. 157-58, n. 28) notes that the existence of these mirrors in Etruscan tomb groups points to a third-century B.C. date.

5. Louis E. Lord ("The Judgement of Paris on Etruscan Mirrors," American Journal of Archaeology 41 [1937], pp. 605, n. 17) considered the Oberlin mirror the only Etruscan mirror on which Uni appears nude. Other examples, however, may have appeared since Lord wrote. In any case, Larissa Bonfante ("An Etruscan Mirror with 'Spiky Garland' in the Getty Museum," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 [1980], pp. 147-54, especially pp. 149-51, nn. 20-21) discusses the complex changes and permutations of individual figures among the four-figure compositions on the mirrors in the "Spiky Garland" group.

6. For Menerfa on Etruscan mirrors, see Larissa Bonfante, "An Etruscan Mirror with 'Spiky Garland' in the Getty Museum," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 8 (1980) pp. 148, 150-51; and Richard D. De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA I: Midwestern Collections (Ames, Iowa, 1987), p. 48.

7. Damage to this area of the mirror has rendered precise details of the image unclear; s

8. This hand is at the center of Rebuffat-Emmanuel's workshop, "grâveurs du group de l'Oberlin College"; see Denise Rebuffat-Emmanuel, Le Miroir étrusque d'après la collection du Cabinet des Médailles (Rome, 1973, pp. 466-67), further explicated by Richard D. De Puma, Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum. USA I: Midwestern Collections (Ames, Iowa, 1987), p. 48.

9. At its widest, this area is 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm). It was probably intended as a convenient place to rest one's thumb while gripping the handle and positioning the mirror. Some of the larger, more elaborate mirrors end in tangs, or projections, which fit into bone or ivory handles. However, after the fourth century B.C., most were cast with mirror disc and handle in one piece, as in this instance.

10. For Celtic influences in northern and central Italy during the fourth and third centuries B.C., see I Galli e L'Italia (Rome, 1978), and Daniele Vitali, "The Celts in Italy," in Sabatino Moscati, ed., The Celts (New York, 1991), pp. 220-35.

11. As noted by Louis E. Lord, "The Judgement of Paris on Etruscan Mirrors," American Journal of Archaeology 41 (1937), p. 602.