- Museum number
Iron belt buckle: large oval inclined loop; tongue with basal shield enriched with copper alloy boss; tongue-shaped plate with folded flap attachment and three copper alloy domed-head rivets; modern copper alloy sheet overlay with repoussé Crucifixion; radiography reveals silver inlaid basket interlace, geometric and linear decoration beneath; fake pastiche incorporating an original buckle.
- Production date
Length: 13.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Comment from Kidd, Haith & Ager ‘Summary Catalogue’ (draft MS)
Given by Friends and Colleagues of Ormonde Maddock Dalton in honour of the occasion of his retirement
Purchased from Reichel who had acquired it from Garnier of Paris
SMITH R.A. 1928. The Crucifixion on a Frankish Buckle (Dalton Gift) BMQ III, no. 2, London, pp. 50-1 no. 40, pl. XXVIII
BAUM J. 1930. Die Malerei und Plastik des Mittelalters II Deutschland, Frankreich und Britannien. Potsdam, p. 52, pl. 53
VON JENNY W.A. and VOLBACH W.F. 1933. Germanischer Schmuck des frühen Mittelalters. Berlin, p. 27
BAUM J. 1937. La Sculpture Figurale en Europe à l'Époque Mérovingienne. Paris, p. 88, pl. XXIV, fig. 74
SALIN E. 1959. La Civilisation Mérovingienne d'après les Sépultures, les Textes et le Laboratoire, 4 vols, 4, Les Croyances, conclusions - Index général. Paris, pp. 357-8, fig. 150
Fakes of early medieval European jewellery
The familiar characterisation of the period between late classical and medieval Europe as the 'Dark Ages' is belied by its bold and multi-coloured jewellery. Collectors were attracted to it in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both by its beauty and by a growing fascination with the vigorous peoples who had worn it, the destroyers of the Roman Empire and the ancestors of modern European nations.
By the early twentieth century major collections in Europe and the USA contained fakes from this period, some of which were shown at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in the exhibition 'Dark Age Art' (1930). In 1940, however, a number of 'Merovingian' pieces in such prestigious collections as that of Adolphe Stoclet of Brussels, and of J. Pierpont Morgan in New York, were publicly called fakes by W. von Stockar and H. Zeiss. The wealth of such major collectors had acted as a magnet to dealers, and cut-throat competition existed to seek out spectacular pieces. If such were not available, ordinary antiquities could be 'improved'; one such is this genuine seventh-century buckle with a modern bronze overlay depicting what was claimed to be the earliest representation of the Crucifixion. Some Continental scholars expressed doubts privately about its authenticity for stylistic reasons after its appearance in 1928, and it soon ceased to be quoted in the literature.
The buckle itself is genuine, seventh century, but the copper-alloy overlay with the Crucifixion is a modern addition. Recently radiography has revealed genuine silver-inlaid decoration beneath the faked additions. The buckle was said to have been found at Creil, Oise (France).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number