12. Mirror handle
5th - 6th c.
2 7/8 inches
The function of this little modeled-in-the-round figure can be deduced by the cylindrical cavity carved into its top and extending down about two-thirds of the height. This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that there have been several similar artifacts representing women holding a mirror1.
Our sculpture shows a woman sitting cross-legged on a wickerwork seat. She is wearing a long dhoti and a veil coiled around her arms, the folds visible on either side of the piece. She is wearing lovely jewelry: a beaded necklace, bracelets and armbands, and large rings in her ears. Her hair is pulled back into a large bun. The details of her face are sculpted with incredible delicacy.
A parrot, recurring symbol of passion, is perched on her left arm. In her hands she holds a vina, and she strokes the chords with her fingers.
Vegetal motifs are visible behind her and are found again on the other side of the piece. That might indicate that the woman is a spirit of nature. This iconography may be linked to ancient Indian sculptures which depict female deities admiring themselves, playing with parrots and making trees grow by touching them1.
1LERNER, KOSSAC, The Lotus Transcendent, Indian and Southeast Asian Art from The Samuel Eilenberg Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, p.101-102.
Provenance : Private collection, Japan