Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Mirror Back (?), 7th–10th century
    Mexico, Veracruz
    Slate; H. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
    Museum Purchase, 1900 (00.5.991)

    The scrolls and interlaces that frame this stone plaque are characteristic of the art of Veracruz. Possibly a back support for a mirror, the plaque has a drilled hole (for suspension?) at its top edge. Such mirrors served as costume elements connoting the high rank or authority of the wearer. They perhaps served a ceremonial function as well. The image depicts the profile of a young man with a small bead beneath his nose that may refer to speech. A net cap with a prominent knot is over the hair, a large earflare with a tooth- or claw-shaped pendant adorns the ear, and a three-tiered beaded collar is around the neck. Along the jaw line, protruding out from his chin, there is a scroll resembling a beard, the extension of which pictorially balances the nose of the figure. The lively, free-flowing scrollwork at the edge of the plaque contrasts with the rigid geometric elements of the image. This combined with the slight incline of the figure and the asymmetry of the design imbue the carved surface with dynamism, creating a visually compelling composition.

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    On view: Gallery 358
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  • Mirror Back (?), 7th–10th century
    Mexico, Veracruz
    Slate; H. 6 in. (15.2 cm)
    Museum Purchase, 1900 (00.5.991)

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