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The Branko belt

 

Length: 195.000 cm
Width: 7.500 cm

M&ME 1990,12-1,1

Prehistory and Europe

    The Branko belt

    Late Byzantine, mid-14th century AD
    Probably from Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) or Thessaloniki, Greece

    A strip of silk textile embroidered with gold and silver thread

    This beautiful textile takes its name from the Cyrillic letters within every third quatrefoil. They read BRANKO, which probably refers to Sebastocrator Branco Mladenovic, a magnate at the court of the Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan (1331-55). Serbian aristocrats of this period are known to have worn very long and elaborate belts with looped ends and it is possible that this was such a piece.

    The long narrow strip displays eighteen ogival quatrefoil frames, in which three motifs are repeated: a wyvern (two-footed dragon), a falcon and a crest consisting of a helm surmounted by the foreparts of an animal which resembles a bear. Each quatrefoil is separated by a panther's mask. Trefoil leaves decorate the space to the sides.

    The base textile is crimson silk in a twill weave. The lower five quatrefoils, on a salmon pink silk, are stylistically slightly different. The details are embroidered in either silk or metal threads. The silk threads are gold, dark blue, crimson, and pea green; the black threads filling the letters have rotted away. The metal threads are all formed from hammered silver-gilt wire. Two colours of gilded wire were used - white for borders and outlining and yellow wire for the animals and backgrounds.

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

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