- Museum number
A gilt-bronze circular enseigne or hat badge depicting the tale of the Judgement of Paris. The scene shows the apple, Paris sleeping, with Hermes standing above him, while the three goddesses (Hera, Athena and Aphrodite) stand in the background. The badge has a wreath border that is pierced twice at the sides with holes for attachment.
- Production date
Diameter: 3.60 centimetres
Weight: 18 grammes
- Curator's comments
Exhibited with 2 others in BM, renaissance medals and plaquettes in Northern Europe, June-October 1995, nos.99-100.
Hat ornaments were worn by men in their caps from the end of the fifteenth century and could be either purely decorative or symbolic. Those of the latter type are traditionally termed enseignes, since they either conveyed the personal intent of the wearer or carried a visible message. This type of jewel finds its origins in the medieval pilgrim badge, an object that was mostly mass-produced and often in base metal. It has been suggested that the transition from this type to a fashionable male ornament is attributable to the arrival of the French king, Charles VIII, into Naples in February 1495. On his cap, the king wore a gold circular jewel and his men had similar jewels (though not of gold) on their caps or sleeves. The Italians soon adopted this fashion and it then spread north reaching most of the European courts. The fashion lasted only until the late-sixteenth/early-seventeenth century, when the wearing of aigrettes became more popular.
The hat ornament was usually commissioned of gold, and was enamelled or jewelled, or both. A group of gilt-bronze plaquettes in the British Museum’s collection (of which this is one), with the characteristic loops or pierced holes for attachment, suggests that this was a fashion that trickled down to lower classes of society. The majority of these plaquettes show scenes from classical mythology, allowing for the meaning to be understood by a larger audience. This category of objects has been cast, which was a much cheaper and quicker mode of production than those that were commissioned. One of these plaquettes (1915,1216.133) has visible traces of enamel. This combined with the gilded decoration and placed at the apex of the body would have deceived any casual passer-by that this was a costly piece.
- Not on display
- Associated events
- Associated Event: Judgement of Paris
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number