Mirrors were used in antiquity not only as an essential toilette piece but were also associated with funerary and ceremonial rituals, hence their frequent occurrence in archaeological excavations of ancient cemeteries. Mirrors featuring a horizontal handle, such as this fine example, are relatively rarer compared to the standard mirrors with vertical grip. Horizontal handled mirrors appeared after the 1st century AD, lasting until the 10th century AD, being widespread across all the Roman Empire and the Eastern regions. Handles of such mirrors excavated in territories of the Roman Empire would have been modelled in the shape of stylised fingers or Herakles knots, while same mirrors in the East and Near Eastern regions, features zoomorphic figures, such as griffins. Horizontal-handled mirrors are less numerous in the East regions, however are much more geographically widespread, being recovered in territories of the Parthian, and later Sassanian, Empire, Central Asia and Vietnam. Interestingly, no horizontal-handled mirrors have materially survived from Kushan India, however, different Mathura sculptures and reliefs show figures holding this type of mirrors.
Near Eastern Mirror Handle with Griffins
A finely modelled Near Eastern bronze horizontal handle, originally part of a mirror. The handle is formed by a cylindrical pole, terminating in the foreparts of two leaping griffins, emerging from a folded collar at each end of the pole. Beneath each collar a pedestal, featuring a squared-base and a short cylindrical basement, supports the pole. These two pedestals would have been attached to the mirror. The griffins reflect the typical Near Eastern stylistic manner of rendering zoomorphic creatures, with deep carvings suggesting facial and anatomical features.
Condition: Fine, with dark brown patina to the surface. Mounted on a custom-made stand, ideal for display.