HISTORY OF MIRRORS PART 2
Ancient Egypt to Ancient Rome
In ANCIENT EGYPT c 5,500 to 30 BC women too, were fond of looking at themselves in mirrors, polished copper ones, as this reconstruction illustrates.
Cleopatra Assessing Her Own Beauty
A Reconstruction of Cleopatra Gazing at Herself in Her Mirror
Map of Ancient Egypt
As these two modern reproductions of Ancient Egyptian mirrors show, they could produce a passable, if somewhat overall coloured, reflection.
This Ancient Egyptian woman (Queen Kawit) is having her hair (or wig) done whilst sipping a little cup of something, a scene not unfamiliar to anyone who has visited Toni & Guy’s chain of current hairdressing salons, except the mirror would be fixed in front of you, instead of you having to hold in your hand. Plus ça change, plus la même chose — the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Next, of course — the makeup. A Servant hands her Mistress a mirror and a Kohl-Stick, the black eye-outliner still beloved of Arab (and Goth) girls today. It is applied (very carefully of course) to the thin strip INSIDE the lashes, that rests against the eyeball and has a definite, sometimes rather startling, effect.
In this image of a present-day girl, as well as the stylised Eyebrows and the Eyeliner, you can clearly see that Kohl has been applied to the thin strip of flesh between the eyeball itself and the lashes.
Modern Painting of Cleopatra on Papyrus
With a snake earring and what looks like a turkey squatting on her head.
Finally, in a pose absolutely typical of a girl concentrating on her face in the mirror, the makeup has to be removed before bed.
Tut-ankh-a-mun’s Funeral Mask and Mirror Case
King Tut-ankh-a-mun’s Funeral Mask is one of the most familiar and ubiquitous images of all time.
His Mirror Case, also made of wood covered with gold, is in the shape of an Ankh.
The Ankh was the Ancient Egyptian’s Symbol of Immortality, the sublime union of Masculine and Feminine, Sexual Power, of Conception and Growth, Healthiness and Strength as well as the Sun and of our own very being.
It was also thought of as Charm to ward off all kinds of evil, rather like a depiction of St. Christopher is sometimes regarded by travellers to this day, over 3,000 years later.
Your-Mirror may only be a rectangle or a circle, it certainly isn’t Ankh shaped, but as you gaze at yourself in it, spare a thought for that other individual, Tut-ankh-a-mun who, no doubt also studied his appearance in his mirror and although a boy King and venerated as a god, only lived to reach the tender age of 18 years.
The Ancient Greeks c 800 BC to 146 AD – also had highly-polished bronze mirrors, like the Ancient Egyptians. This is a high-class, richly-decorated, stand-alone version, where the rich patina is now it would once have been reflective, polished bronze.
Ancient Greek women, too, were quite obsessed with their appearance, judging by the number of times they are depicted looking at themselves in hand mirrors.
This one seems to be saying something like “If I just tuck this little piece in here… it’ll be perfect!”
Aglianice the Astronomer c 200 bc
Although this may look as though the servant is saying “Ready for your beads, madam?” to which her Mistress responds “Sure, but WHY is my mirror floating away?” this is, in fact, Aglaonice, an astute woman pioneer astronomer who lived in ancient Greece around 200 BC.
Her ability to predict Lunar Eclipses was renowned and is mentioned by Plutarch, Pluto and Apollonius, A pity that the prejudiced men of the period doubted her skills because of her gender and called her a Witch. Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.
END OF HISTORY OF MIRRORS PART 2
Ancient Egypt to Ancient Rome