Esther and Apollo

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classical art memories
My mirror has the shape of a Greek lyre.

My favorite object d’art is a small mirror in a corner of my living room.  It sits above my husband’s triangular desk on which he has placed his favorite object d’art, a wooden Maltese Falcon.

My mirror has the shape of a Greek lyre.  Its frame is back-to-back swan-like inverted S’s of painted black wood.  Bas-reliefs of golden laurel leaves rest mid-frame on both sides.  Gold also outlines its slender neck and reed-like strings rising from the small bridge across the top. Apollo himself, God of the Lyre, looks out from the broader bottom, in golden bas-relief.  Looking into the mirror, I see my face reflected at the center, just above Apollo’s.

You know I have a passion for everything Greek.  Even my young granddaughter noticed.  At age six she asked why we had so many Dionysuses in my house”?  And we do.  A colorful ceramic mask and a small statue of a satyr peeing, both from Florence, a Caravaggio print of the wine God drunk and decadent amongst rotting fruit, and a Lalique candle holder in which his wreathed face gleams when lit. My sister-in-law  chose that one for my birthday years ago. 

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And not only Dionysus.  In our bedroom, there is a small reproduction of the sculpture of The Three Graces, a huge copy of Matisse’s Icarus Falling, a little copy of Dante Gabrielle Rosetti’s painting of Proserpine eating that fateful pomegranate.  In one of our many moves, we lost a replica of Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Woman, but a piece of the Metropolitan Museum’s Roman Wall Painting sits above our dining room table.  It is the depiction of the stage set of a Greek theater, of course.

Three graces sculpture
a small reproduction of the sculpture of The Three Graces in our bedroom.

But that mirror remains a favorite.  It is not a reproduction of an artwork I can find on Google.  The piece was carefully chosen by my mother, Esther, to sit atop a  delicate Chinese black lacquer table in her living room, which she decorated in what I used to call ‘Asian-Jewish Renaissance.’  I have no idea where she found the mirror.   When my mother showed it to me, she said, “I hope you like this.  I bought it with you in mind, and want it to be yours when I die.”  I never thought she appreciated that part of me that was a classics professor.  Nor did I acknowledge how much of me she understood.  Now when I stand before the mirror, I see us both, mother and daughter, looking very much alike and loving each other from afar.

Images are from the author’s personal collection.

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  1. This is for Lois Spatz. My name is Kevin Kiser and I am a former student of Dr. Spatz. I took 2 years of classical Greek at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as well as classes in the Judaic Studies Program . I want to let Dr. Spatz know that I am preparing for a trip to Athens where I will be taking a 3 week, perhaps longer, language class in Modern Greek. She was a fantastic educator and it was an honor to be her student.

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