The superb carving on this hand mirror is closely related to a carved wood pendant in the Wallace Collection, London (Mann, loc. cit.) in its material, carving style and design. The Wallace pendant is dated 1572, but both it and the present lot are certainly derived from engraved print sources from the school of Fontainebleau, which were widely available in the second half of the 16th century. These print sources, which disseminated Italian designs brought north to France, were used by wood carvers, enamellers, and goldsmiths among others. The present lot, for example, shows similarities to the work of engravers such as Georges Reverdy, who was active in Lyon between 1531 and 1564 (for an example of similar strapwork design by Reverdy see Boorsch and Spike, loc. cit.).
As with many domestic objects of the 16th century, the inscriptions here appear to be moralistic sayings. The main inscription on the reverse of the mirror is appropriate for the scene depicting Judith and Holofernes, in which the Assyrian general is beheaded by Holofernes when he attempts to seduce her. It can be translated roughly as 'He who yearns for the flesh will die', followed by 'Think of the woman's destiny'. At the very top above the seated figure reading a scroll is a line which translates as 'Improve your life'. The latin on the front is more difficult to decipher due to the many contractions, but seems to advise 'persecuting that which is evil and adhering to that which is good'.