- Museum number
Beads: twenty blue and white glass and three biconical metal sheet beads with filigree; three gold embossed hollow sheet disc pendants; fake.
- Production date
Diameter: 16 millimetres (disc)
Length: 20.50 centimetres (total)
- Curator's comments
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' (see registration no. 1928,0720.1).
Some fakers simply copied genuine originals. An illustration of a genuine gilt-silver Merovingian bow brooch from Zweibrücken (now in the British Museum), published in 1858, was the source of a series of 'gold' fakes. The size of the reproduction was slightly smaller than the original and the fakes share a number of mistakes in the illustration, as well as a series of inherently unlikely technical features. The fakers of the ensemble of gold 'Lombardic' jewellery followed a similar method. The group was dismissed out of hand by Werner in 1950 when publishing a corpus of genuine contemporary brooches. Indeed, it is such detailed studies of individual types of object that have been crucial in isolating fakes.
'Lombardic' jewellery (comment relating to registration nos 1930,1106.1-5)
The composition of this group, and features of individual pieces, can be matched with grave groups from Castel Trosino in Italy, published with excellent photographs by G. Sergi in 'Monumenti Antichi' in 1902. However, the fakers' technical expertise in filigree and granulation throughout is wholly inferior to that on the originals. The disc brooch (registration nos. 1930,1106.1-2) has inappropriate fittings on a misconceived back-plate, since views of the backs were not published by Sergi (the second disc-brooch in this group is discussed under cat. no. 313). The purity of the gold, the composition of the solder and the nature of the glass inlays suggest that these pieces may have come from the same workshop that produced the 'Lombard Treasure'(see registration no. 1989,0109.1-2).
The glass beads are antique, but not Lombardic.The glass beads are antique, but not Lombardic.
Associated dates : 7thC (purported).
Comment from Kidd, Haith & Ager ‘Summary Catalogue’ (draft MS)
(the group - 1930,1106.1 to 5)
SMITH R.A. 1930. Seventh Century Jewellery, British Museum Quarterly V, no. 3, London, pp. 84-5 no. 59, pl. XLIIc-g
Originally purported to be from Lombard graves in Italy.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number