Mirror back, 1350-1360. Museum No. 9-1872

Mirror back, 1350-1360. Museum No. 9-1872

Mirror back
Possibly Paris, France
Between 1350 and 1360
Carved ivory
Diameter 13cm
Museum No. 9-1872

Castles were a significant part of the urban and rural landscape in medieval Europe. They were also used in visual art and written texts to communicate varied ideas. This mirror back appears, at first glance, to depict a real castle siege or tournament.  The castle, however, is held by four ladies who hurl flowers at the besieging knights below. From the battlements at the top of the castle the winged God of Love shoots arrows at the combatants.

The scene represents an attack on the Castle of Love, something which was frequently enacted during the period as staged events at festivities. Roland of Padua describes a festival near Treviso, Italy, where a castle was built and defended by the women and girls of the town. The men attacked the castle with fruits, perfumes and flowers. The mirror which would originally have been attached to the other side of the ivory is missing.