Illustrated introduction to Michelangelo, £9.99
Length: 32.800 cm
Diameter: 1.900 cm (head)
From the collection of Lord Londesborough
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Irish or Pictish, 5th-6th century AD
Status on show with a precious heirloom
This huge silver pin would have been used on an outer garment. Like the great medieval Irish ‘handpins’, the thick head is offset from a tapering shank. The disc has a pattern of three ‘C’-shaped scrolls back-to-back, a motif that continued from the Iron Age Celtic tradition into the middle ages. On the shaft below the disc are panels of stamped and cast ornament delicately framed with tiny stamped circles. Red enamel once decorated all the recesses.
The use of precious metal, the size of the pin and the craftsmanship are clear statements of prestige. As a treasured heirloom, the pin has also been carefully repaired. Although it is not known where the pin was found, the use of silver and details shared with the few other disc-headed pins suggest that this pin was made in Ireland, possibly in the north. The silver used to make it was rare in Ireland and probably came from melted-down Roman plate or coins.
S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)
S.M. Youngs (ed.), The work of angels: masterpiec (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)