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Coin-set pendant


Height: 90.000 mm
Width: 92.400 mm
Weight: 63.140 g

Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

Britain, Europe and Prehistory

M&ME 1984,5-1,1

    Coin-set pendant

    Late Antique, 4th century AD
    Probably from Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey)

    An openwork gold pendant set with a coin and six medallion busts

    This special double solidus of the Roman emperor Constantine I ‘the Great’ (reigned AD 306-37) is set in a hexagonal gold sheet, pierced with heart-shaped scrolls and set with six male and female busts in high relief. The beautifully chased small busts are very expressive and individualized, but difficult to identify. One, wearing a Phrygian cap, may represent Attis, a solar deity, or Orpheus, the mythical lyre player and singer. The others may be Greek gods, philosophers, muses or satyrs.

    This remarkable coin pendant was originally part of a single necklace that was hung with four other pierced-work pendants set with double solidi surrounded by busts. The coins were issued in AD 321 and 324 to commemorate the second and third consulships of Constantine’s sons, Crispus (died AD 326) and Constantine II (emperor, AD 337–340). Four were struck at the imperial mint at Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) and one at Nicomedia (modern Izmit, Turkey). The owner of these valuable multiple issues probably had them all mounted close to the same time, either in the AD 320s or later in the fourth century. Sirmium was Constantine’s imperial residence from AD 320 to 324, before he moved permanently to Constantinople. Therefore, the pendants could have been made in either the Western or Eastern Empire.

    B. Deppert-Lippitz, 'Late Roman splendor: jewelery from the age of Constantine', Bulletin of the Cleveland Muse, 1 (1996), pp. 30–71

    D. Buckton (ed.), Byzantium: treasures of Byzant (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

    S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)


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