Orestes killing his mother Clytemnestra
Etruscan bronze mirror.
4th—3rd cent. BCE.
Length 26.7 cm.
Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, London

Orestes killing his mother Clytemnestra.

Etruscan bronze mirror.
4th—3rd cent. BCE.
Length 26.7 cm.

Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, London.

Private collection.
Private collection, England.
Gifted in 1960 by E. H. Goddard, Esq., the present owner’s old headmaster.
Christie’s Fine Art Auction House, London. Live Auction 4925, Lot 281, 26 Apr 2012.
Estimate: 3,000—5,000 GBP. Price Realized: 6,250 GBP (price includes buyer’s premium).
E. H. Goddard, Esq., was formerly Headmaster of Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham Boys School, from 1932-1961. Previously, he had been Head of Classics at Bradford Boys Grammar School. Goddard’s Greek and Latin textbooks were used in many schools throughout the world, and known as “Lewis and Goddard”.

The reverse engraved with an armour-clad Orestes, with drawn sword, in the act of slaying his mother, Clytemnestra, crouching with her right hand stretched out to her son in supplication, with the snake-haired Nathum standing to the left, wearing short tunic with a snake wrapped around his arm, its head grasped in his left hand, to the right a trailing vine, the handle with acanthus leaf terminal, ribbed shaft and horse head finial

The scene shown is that of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, exacting revenge for his father’s murder at the hands of his mother, Clytemnestra. After returning from the Trojan war with his concubine, the prophetic Trojan princess Cassandra, the King was slain by his wife in retaliation for sacrificing their daughter, Iphigenia, to obtain favourable winds for the Greek fleet. Orestes killed Clytemnestra along with her lover, Aegisthus, who had usurped the Mycenean throne. After the murder, Orestes was pursued by the Erinyes or Furies, whose duty was to revenge violation of family honour, especially against females. The Etruscan manifestation of the Erinyes is the snake-wielding Nathum.

For another mirror with a similar scene cf. E. A. Gerhard et al., Etruskische Spiegel, vol. II, Berlin, 1845, pl. 238.

© 2012. Photo, text: Christie’s Fine Art Auction House (Live Auction 4925, Lot 281).
Keywords: ελληνική μυθολογία mythologia graeca greek mythology mitologia greca griechische mythologie grecque κλυταιμήστρα klytemnestra clytaemnestra clytemestra clytemnestra clitennestra clitemestra klytaimnestra klytaimestra clytemnestre ὀρέστης ορέστης orestes oreste ἐρινύς ερινύες εὐμενίδες ευμενίδες erinyes erinys eumenides erinni eumenidi erinnyen érinyes érinnyes euménides ετρουσκική μυθολογία etruscan religion etrusca etruskische étrusque nathum unterweltdämonen ετρουρία etruria etrusco etruskisch etruskischer etruskischen καθρέφτης mirror mirrors specchio specchi spiegel miroir miroirs sword spada schwert épée ensis ξίφος σπαθί armour armor armatura rüstung armure πανοπλία bronze bronzo ορείχαλκος tunic tunika tunique tunica band ribbon fillet tenia tänie binden tænia ténia taenia tainia ταινία mother madre mutter mère μητέρα murder uccisione omicidio tötung ermordung mord meurtre grapevine vite weinrebe vigne snakes serpents serpenti schlangen φίδια son figlio sohn fils filius υιός plea for mercy richiesta di pietà clemenza bitte um gnade plaidoyer pour la miséricorde demander grâce à engraving incisione gravierung xiphos killing his