- Museum number
A complete silver dress or cap hook. Rectangular plate with three human figures; the crucifixion with Christ in a loincloth and two flanking figures in profile; there are two pairs of perforations either side of the figure; the hook has been soldered horizontally to the centre of the back face of the plate and goes through two sharp U-shaped bends before it reaches its tip, which is pointed.
- Production date
Height: 10 millimetres
Weight: 0.002 kilograms
Width: 13.31 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Unique figurative example, with religious theme.
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, with the characteristic loops or pierced holes for attachment to a cap or garment, 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 mostly 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.
Gentlemen, in imitation of courtly practice, may have also worn hat ornaments painted with Limoges enamel. Although it is often very hard to determine a definitive use for Limoges enamelled plaques, since they could assume a variety of roles, there are four similar hat ornaments recorded in Hackenbroch, Enseignes (1996), figs. 95-6, 98-9. Bernard Palissy commented on the wearing of Limoges enamel badges in his treatises: "Je m'assure avoir vu donner pur trois sols la douzaine des figures d'enseignes que l'en portoit aux bonnets, lasquelles enseignes estoyent si bieng labourées et leurs esmaux si bien parfondus sur le cuivre, qu'il n'y avoit nulle peinture si plaisante." (cited in Hackenbroch, p.82).
The survival of an object such as this cap-hook demonstrates another fashion - that of wearing multiple ornaments in the hat. Evidence of this practice can be seen in contemporary images which show these smaller ornaments worn alongside the emblematic badges on the hat, such as Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Simon George, ca.1535 or that of Sir Nicholas Poyntz, after Holbein, ca.1535. This particular example has strong links with the medieval pilgrim badge in that the overall form of the object takes on, more or less, the form of the subjects depicted. Pilgrim badges were worn conspicuously to demonstrate the religious shrines the wearer had visited. This cap-hook is a less overt statement of religiosity due to its size, but nonetheless it is a very interesting example of a hat-ornament displaying characteristics of both the decorative and the emblematic types. Stylistically, it can be compared with the medieval pilgrim-badge and brooch OA.651.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Metal detector find 16th November 2003.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Treasure/PAS number: 2003T372 (Treasure number)