The mirror of isis


This decorative piece brings together the practical qualities of an object of applied art (mirror), with a hairpin precision in the treatment of details and sculptural aesthetics. The composition made of different materials (bronze, brass, aluminium, wood) conjures up a world of fabulous luxury appropriate for one of the greatest goddesses of the ancient world. The shine of the polished metals, the noble patina of the bronze, and the rich texture of mahogany are amalgamated into one harmonious whole. The balanced harmony and symmetry of the composition correspond with the rational nature of the beauty of Ancient Egypt’s art. Isis’s graceful figure looks especially fragile and elegant in comparison to its huge headpiece, where a mirror is set as the goddess’s traditional attribute – a sun disc. Such bronze mirrors were common in Etruscan art. If we think of the later period of the civilization of Ancient Rome, which eagerly borrowed cultural traditions of entire nations and integrated them into one syncretic whole, the imagery can be seen as an elegant allusion to Rome’s messianic ambitions. As such, the ornamental format of the “Mirror of Isis”, without directly imitating or drawing on ancient Egyptian art, reasserts the syncretic nature of this image open to liberal interpretation.

 

Brief annotations to the image

ISIS was a goddess worshipped in Ancient Egypt as the sister and wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, and the personification of marital fidelity and motherhood. Since the age of the Egyptian Empire her cult was merged with the worship of Hathor. In the new incarnation, the goddess was no longer featured sitting on a throne but carried head horns with a sun disk between them. In the composite pantheon of Ancient Rome the range of powers she possessed was broadened to include fertility, water and wind, sea-faring, magic, and protection of the dead.