Design for a Hand Mirror, 1561



The Herschel V. Jones Fund, by exchangeexpand_more  P.79.25

Not on Viewexpand_more

Mirrors were symbols of vanity, so it is appropriate that Étienne Delaune decorated the rim with the "Seven Planets," a theme that can suggest the passage of time. Each celestial body--not all are planets--is shown with its personification and zodiac sign. Clockwise from top, they are: the Sun and lion; Mars and ram; Jupiter and fish; Saturn and ram or goat; Moon and scorpion; Mercury and baby twins; and Venus and bull. All rest within a courtly framework of scrolls, faceted jewels, and cameo-like profiles.

The central scene alludes to a more troubling side of vanity. It illustrates the episode in Greek myth when Medea used her magical arts to trick Pelias's daughters into boiling him in a pot of water in the belief he would become young again. Her beloved Jason repays Medea for this act (Pelias was Jason's enemy) by marrying another. An enraged Medea flies off in her serpent-drawn chariot, but not before killing her two children and Jason's bride.

Design for a Hand Mirror
Artist Life
about 1518/19-1583
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Robert-Dumesnil vol. IX p. 96 #314
Curator Approved

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