Mirror with Jael and Barak

Date: 1672

Culture: British

Medium: Satin worked with silk and metal-wrapped thread, beads, purl, mica, seed pearls; detached buttonhole variations, long-and-short, satin, couching, and straight stitches; wood frame, celluloid imitation tortoiseshell, mirror glass, silk plush

Dimensions: 28 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. (73 x 60.3 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Embroidered

Credit Line: Purchase, Mrs. Thomas J. Watson Gift, 1939

Accession Number: 39.13.2a


This mirror would have sat on a dressing table; it is fitted with its own a folding stand to prop it up. Mirror frames decorated with raised-work embroidery were especially popular in England in the second half of the seventeenth century; most of the dated examples were made between 1660 and 1680.

The couple who face each other across the glass are most likely the biblical figures of Jael and Barak, from the Old Testament Book of Judges. Barak led the Israelites to a victory over the army led by Sisera, who was slain by Jael after she lured him into her tent. On the mirror frame, Jael is shown on the right with a mallet and tent stake, the instruments with which she murdered Sisera and aided the Jewish people.