Mirror with serpentine interlaces and angular meandersArtist(s)ChineseArtist NationalityChinese (culture or style)Object Creation Date3rd century BCEMedium & Supportcast bronze with silver and malachite patinaDimensions
9 5/16 in. x 9 5/16 in. x 1/4 in. ( 23.6 cm x 23.6 cm x 0.6 cm )Credit LineMuseum PurchaseLabel copy
China has had mirrors since the late second millennium BCE. Traditional Chinese mirrors were in the form of bronze disks with a polished reflecting surface and relief decorations cast on the back, as seen in these four examples from a wide range of dynastic periods. A braided silk cord was passed through the knob at the center of the back that was used as a “handle” for the mirror. Variations in surface color or patina of these mirrors—from silvery to green to black – result from different ratios of copper and tin (the components of bronze) and burial conditions, as mirrors were personal accessories that customarily accompanied the deceased to the afterlife.
Decoration on the backs of bronze mirrors usually follows the styles current in metalwork of the period. The delicate design on the Warring States-period mirror is a beautiful curvilinear pattern known as “hook-and-volute” that is the highly abstracted form of a dragon. It is found on bronze vessels as well as textile decoration from that period.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)Subject matter
bronze mirror decorated with interlaces of serpentine and angular meaders, front side polished flat, used by the elite of Warring States Period in first millennium BCEPhysical Description
Thinnly cast mirror with narrow rim and bridge-shaped knob, back decorated with interlaces of serpentine and angular meaders, front side polished flatPrimary Object Classification Metalwork Primary Object TypemirrorAdditional Object Classification(s)Decorative ArtsCollection AreaAsianRights
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