Bronze mirror

Period: Late Classical

Date: ca. 350 B.C.

Culture: Etruscan

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: diameter 6 3/8in. (16.2cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909

Accession Number: 09.221.16


This exquisite mirror depicts an event in the Trojan War cycle, an unusual scene from the myth of Peleus and Thetis, which is related to one of the events that gave rise to the war. Apparently, while Thesis is preparing for her wedding day, she is surprised by her groom, the Greek hero Peleus, who seems startled to see her image in the mirror she holds. Thetis is assisted in her toilette by a seated female figure inscribed Calaina, who is perhaps the Etruscanized version of the Greek name Galena, who like Thetis, is a sea nymph. Both Thetis and Calaina wear elaborate laurel wreaths very similar to those in the Museum's Etruscan jewelry collection.
The story of Peleus and Thetis begins with a prophecy that the son born to Thetis, a beautiful divine sea nymph, would be more powerful and famous than his father. Zeus was attracted to Thetis, and he realized that if they produced a son together, the child would fulfill the prophecy and therefore upset the order of the universe. To avoid this eventuality, Zeus decided to marry off Thetis to a mortal man. Despite her attempts to evade Peleus by mutating into fire, water, and an assortment of wild animals, Thetis produced a son, the Greek hero Achilles, who was greater than his father and thus fulfilled the prophecy. Achilles is a major character in the art and literature of both Greek and Etruscan culture.
The Greeks and the Etruscans enjoyed tales of pursuit and seduction, and events from the myth of Peleus and Thetis are depicted on many works in both cultures.