Mirror Case

Date: 1350–75

Geography: Made in possibly Paris, France

Culture: French

Medium: Elephant ivory

Dimensions: Overall: 4 3/8 x 4 1/8 x 7/16 in. (11.1 x 10.4 x 1.1 cm)
diameter: 4 in. (10.1 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941

Accession Number: 41.100.160


Ivory mirror cases were usually carved in pairs to protect a polished metal disk within. Often mentioned in inventories and wills, few pairs survive, and none with its protective leather case. As forerunners of the modern cosmetic compact, they were destined primarily for aristocratic owners. Likely carved in Paris in the mid-fourteenth century, this example depicts men and ladies in a forest as they hunt with falcons. The link between the sport of falconry and courtly love was a frequent subject in medieval literature, so the playful imagery on the mirror back can also be read as a hunt for love.