British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 11.200 cm (max.)
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
The Strickland Brooch
Anglo-Saxon, mid-9th century AD
Animals large and small
The history of this elaborate silver disc brooch is almost unknown. It is named after the Strickland family of Yorkshire, and may well have belonged to Sir William Strickland, a keen collector of antiquities in the nineteenth century. The brooch was bought by an American buyer at auction in 1949 but it was refused an export licence and was then purchased by The British Museum.
An outstanding feature of the brooch is the extensive use of gold in its decoration, used at a time when it was scarce and highly prized. Plain gold panels enrich a lively pattern of dog-like animals (complete with collars!) deeply carved into the silver to form an open-work effect. These animals fill a quatrefoil where the lobes are divided by animal heads seen from above. There are raised bosses behind these heads. The arms of the central cruciform (cross-shaped) motif, with another boss at its centre, terminate with four identical heads towards the edge.
The rich look of the brooch is further enhanced by a number of decorative techniques which clearly show the Anglo-Saxon love of colour and light. A black niello inlay has been used to make the decoration stand out, and blue glass picks out the eyes of the animal heads. Small dots punched into some areas of the curved surface of the brooch give it a sparkling appearance. This style is typical of fine Anglo-Saxon metalwork of the ninth century. It is called the Trewhiddle Style after a Cornish hoard.
The back of the brooch is undecorated, although attached are the remains of fixings for a pin which is now missing. The silver loop fitted by a rivet to the top of the brooch allows it to be worn as a pendant.
R.L.S. Bruce-Mitford, 'Late Saxon disc-brooches' in Dark-Age Britain-1 (London, Methuen, 1956), pp. 171–201
D.M. Wilson, Anglo-Saxon art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1984)
L. Webster, Anglo-Saxon art: A new history (London, British Museum Press, 2012)
S. Marzinzik, Masterpieces: Early medieval a (London, British Museum Press, 2013)
L. Webster and J. Backhouse, The making of England: Anglo-S, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)