Length: 15.400 cm
Width: 4.350 cm
Excavated by George William
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
Silver gilt dress pin
Anglo-Saxon, later 6th century
From Grave 95, Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England
Decorated with a face mask
This is one of the largest and most unusual dress pins that has survived from Anglo-Saxon England. Dress pins like this, with long shafts, were typical of Anglian culture areas in eastern England.
The head of the pin displays a symmetrical design that resembles an owl, or perhaps a human mask with large round eyes. On closer inspection it becomes clear that the large eyes are also bird heads in profile, with raptor-like beaks. What appear to be ribbed 'eyebrows' from the front are also serpents with open mouths that spring from the beaks of the birds. The upper axe-shaped section of the pin is undecorated. If this upper element of this pin is taken into account, yet another view of the pin emerges. In this reading, the overall image is that of a frontal helmet, with a plain casque and nosepiece, round eye sockets and ribbed brows.
This kind of
visual pun is typical of Germanic art styles. For example, the
purse mount in the shape of a helmet from the Domagnano treasure
(see Related Objects) displays similar hidden images in