The Portland Vase, £5.00
Length: 16.500 cm
Britain, Europe and Prehistory 1851,0806.10
Gilded silver brooch
Lombardic, late 6th-early 7th century AD
From Tuscany, Italy
Decorated with animals, and birds' heads
This brooch was worn to fasten a cloak or mantle. The decoration of every available space is typical of Germanic jewellery from the fifth century onwards and is often referred to as horror vacui, a Latin phrase meaning ‘fear of an empty space’. The animals and visual puzzle of the design may have been intended to protect the wearer from evil influence.
The brooch is radiate-headed in form, with an outer arc of knobs cast in the form of animal heads. On the sides and end are heads of birds of prey and animals. The gilded central panel and oval foot are decorated with two entwined, rather snake-like, ‘Style II’ animals.
H. Tait (ed.), 7000 years of jewellery (London, British Museum Press, 2006)