Gold fibula (brooch) with lions and sphinxes

Etruscan, about 675-650 BC
From Vulci, ancient Etruria (now in Lazio, Italy)

This remarkable gold fibula has a small bow formed from three curved tubes and a very long catchplate of gold sheet. On the catchplate is mounted a procession of ten pairs of gold lions, each glancing over its shoulder, while more lions, sphinxes and heads of lions and horses decorate the bow, as well as the tip and butt of the catchplate. Details of the animals are picked out in gold granulation, and lines of granulation ornament the other parts of the brooch. The lions are of a type typically produced by goldsmiths at Cerveteri, and this was probably where the brooch was made, although it was found at Vulci, probably at the Ponte Sodo necropolis.

Such an elaborate form of this particular type of brooch is unique. Its predecessors were simple bronze examples of the 'serpentine' (snake-like) type produced locally in Italy, but this example follows the fashion for luxurious and ostentatious gold jewellery in seventh-century Etruria.

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More information


H. Tait (ed.), Seven thousand years of jewell (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)

E. Macnamara, The Etruscans-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

L. Burn, The British Museum book of G-1, revised edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

R. Higgins, Greek and Roman jewellery (London, Methuen, 1980)


Length: 18.600 cm
Weight: 712.000 g

Museum number

GR 1862.5-12.16 (Jewellery 1376)



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