Height: 6.800 cm (including loop)
Diameter: 5.800 cm
Weight: 22.200 g
Britain, Europe and Prehistory,
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Gold medallion with the Adoration of the Magi
Early Byzantine, around AD 600
Probably made in the Holy Land
Two gold discs mounted back to back and embossed with scenes from the Life of Christ
One side of the disc depicts the three Magi (Wise Men) approaching the seated Virgin who holds the Christ child on her lap. The star of Bethlehem appears above, together with a winged angel who guides the Magi. The Magi are shown as three lively men, two bearded and one clean-shaven. Their outfits symbolize their Persian origin: they are dressed in leggings, tunics and Phrygian caps. Although the central Magus gestures excitedly with his hands, the other two draw their tunics over their hands as a mark of respect while they present their gifts. The Virgin is seated on a throne with side panels, an integral footrest and a high back. An inscription in Greek at the bottom translates ‘Lord, protect the bearer, Amen’.
The join between the two discs has been masked by a row of swaged wire and a ribbed suspension loop is mounted at the top. The reverse shows the Ascension of Christ after His death. The inscription here translates ‘Our peace we leave with you’, a reference to Christ’s words at the Last Supper as recorded in John 14:27.
R. Shepherd, We three kings: the Magi in ar (Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire Art Gallery, 1996)
H. Tait (ed.), 7000 years of jewellery (London, British Museum Press, 2006)
S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)