Mirror with engraving of Chalchas
Collections OnlineGregorian Etruscan MuseumRoom III

Mirror with engraving of Chalchas

late 5th cent. BC.
Cast bronze
height cm 18.5 diam. cm 14.8
cat. 12240

A particularly representative class of Etruscan craft is that formed by bronze mirrors, decorated with engravings or, more rarely, in relief on the surface opposite to the reflecting part. Chronologically they are distributed between the 6th and 3rd cent. BC, with a particular development in the 4th cent. BC. This famous mirror shows an elderly haruspex intent on examining the liver of a sacrificed animal for drawing auspices from it. An Etruscan inscription describes him as Chalchas, that is the mythical Greek soothsayer Chalchas represented here in the Etruscan iconographic version with the attribute of wings, a clear characteristic that underlines his function of go-between between earthly and transcendent reality. The foot placed on a rock is to be noted. This is a fundamental action in the divining process by the haruspex who in doing this establishes contact with the earth as the site of the natural sphere and of the underworld.