- Museum number
Cast, copper alloy, tongue-shaped strap-end with a symmetrical design in low relief of two pairs of birds flanking a central foliate stem. The attachment panel has five rivet-holes, and the ornament is surrounded by a narrow frame. The foliate stem begins and ends in an inward-facing animal-mask, with another at its mid-point. From their mouths, tendrils with side-shoots issue, in which perch four birds, two addorsed and two affronted. The back is flat and undecorated.
- Production date
Length: 6.60 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Webster et al 1984
Winchester-style ornament was not confined to sumptuously illuminated manuscripts and fine ecclesiastical metalwork, such as the Canterbury censer-cover (1927,1116.1), but also makes its appearance on more utilitarian objects such as the strap-ends described below. This strap-end was first brought together with four others (one from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1909.446 (cat. 81) and three from Winchester, City Museums, Winchester Research Unit BS SF 6624, CG SF 1396 and BS SF 6810 (cat. 82-84)) and identified by Kendrick (Kendrick, T.D. 1938b, An Anglo-Saxon Cruet, ‘Antiquaries Journal’ 18, 377-81).
All these strap-ends have the same basic design, although the standard of workmanship varies, and they differ from each other in stylistic detail. Pairs of addorsed birds or animals are symmetrically arranged on either side of a central foliate stem, which springs from an inverted animal mask at the base. The birds have a very emphatic stance, their heads are thrown back, and they have large gaping beaks which bite vigorously at acanthus sprays issuing from the central stem. Such birds locked in symmetrical foliage may be seen in the border of the dedication page to a copy of Bede's ‘Lives of St Cuthbert’ (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 183 (cat. 6)), dated c.934/9. They also occur in smaller initials such as the P on f. 115V of Bede's ‘Historia Ecclesiastica’ (Temple, E. 1976, ‘Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts 900-1006 (A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles’, Vol. 2), London, no. 9), dated to the first half of the tenth century, and in the Q, initial on f. 5 of the Cambridge ‘Arator’ (Temple 1976, no. 34), dated to the last quarter of the tenth century. Leonine animal masks with fleshy, foliate tongues and pendent tendrils issuing from their mouths are common in both tenth and eleventh-century manuscripts, occurring, for example, on f. 4 of the Ramsey Psalter (British Library, Harley MS 2904 (cat. 41)), dated to the last quarter of the tenth century, and also in a host of smaller initials such as the D in a copy of the ‘Enchiridion Augustini’ (Temple 1976, no. 30), dated to the second half of the tenth century.
Other strap-ends of this type include an example from Wilbury Hill, Hertfordshire (Kendrick 1938b, PL. LXXIV: 4), which has a pair of birds with panelled wings and gaping beaks flanking a central stem of scalloped acanthus leaves not unlike those on the one from Winchester (cat. 82), and a fragment from Thetford (ibid. PL. LXXIV: 2) in which a pair of birds bite at a foliate tendril descending from the mouth of an animal mask above them; but the finest example of this group, appropriately enough, was found in Winchester itself (cat. 83) during excavations in 1968 on the site of the Old Minster.
Provenance: Kendrick (1938b, 380) supposed it came from London, but there is no evidence to support this. Formerly in the collection of Cecil Brent, purchased from Messrs Rollin and Feuardent in 1903.
Kendrick supposes that this piece came from London because it was bought with a number of other medieval objects of which some have a London provenance. There is no evidence for this identification. It came from the Cecil Brent Collection (sold at Messrs. Sotheby's, December, 1902) and is drawn in 'Brent MS. 2', fol. 68 r, no. 4 (Department of British and Medieval Antiquities, British Museum). Brent had a large collection of material from London - but he also had objects from Kent and elsewhere.
Tenth century. No recorded provenance.
See pp. 43, 47, 62 and pl. XLIII.
Bibliography: Kendrick, T. D. (1938c): 'An Anglo-Saxon Cruet', The Antiquaries Journal, xviii, 380 and pl. 74, 1; Kendrick, T. D. (1949): Late Saxon and Viking Art, London, 41.
- Not on display
- The surface of the strap-end is heavily worn.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number