- Museum number
Gold mount, comprising a gold base with a round tray soldered onto it, the join concealed by gold filigree wire. The tray is inlaid with cloisonne enamel in gold cells, forming a design showing a frontally-arranged male head. The male head has almond shaped eyes, a small mouth and wavy hair. On each side of the head is a sprig-like motif comprising a gold strip with curled terminal, probably representing vegetation. The face, neck and terminals of the vegetation are inlaid with opaque white enamel, now degraded; the hair is bluish in colour and the field surrounding the head is greenish-black. The underside of the object is undecorated, and has several flattened gold strips.
- Production date
- 10thC(late)-11thC (?)
Diameter: 1.90 millimetres (at base)
Diameter: 1.77 millimetres (enamelled field)
Weight: 2.50 grammes
Thickness: 3 millimetres (overall)
- Curator's comments
On a gold base is soldered a round box which holds in its field the enamelled decoration. The seam is covered by a filigree wire. The design is achieved by means of large cloisons (cells) made up of continuous ribbons of thin gold sheet, which hold the enamel. The visible upper surface of the cloison walls, economically, draws the design itself. This shows a male frontal bust (head and neck), with large almonds eyes and nose formed by one continuous strip curled on itself, a small mouth and ?moustache above. The hair is wavy. At the side of the bust two motifs, probably intended to represent vegetation, are made with a strip curled at the top. The enamel is not well preserved, and large areas of the base to which it was applied are visible, but on the neck, part of the face and in the 'buds' the original whitish colour is still to be seen. The hair appears bluish, and the field greenish-black. The right eye is totally empty. At the back of the object there are strips, suggesting the object was soldered as a mount.
A number of enamelled brooches and mounts survive, both from the continent and England. The most famous are the Castellani brooch, in the British Museum (G Haseloff, Email in frühen Mittelaltern, Marburg 1990, p. 44, fig.18), and related pieces, such as the earrings from Senise, and a brooch now in Baltimore (ibid. figs. 16 and 17). These jewels date from the 7th century, and were used as a comparison by H Vierk ('La chemise de Sainte Bathilde à Chelles et l'influence byzantine sur l'art de court mérovingienne au VIIè siecle', Centenaire de 1'Abbé Cochet, Actes du Colloque International d'Archéologie 1975, La période mérovingienne, vol. 3, Rouen 1978, pp. 521-64, at pp. 530-1) for putting in context two pendants embroidered on the chemise of Bathilde. It is interesting to notice on these vegetation motifs ending in round buds (ibid., fig 5) like the ones on our mount. Whilst the Castellani brooch school production, and its evolution, as seen in the work for the 9th-century gold altar of St Ambrose in Milan, is characterised by very large, languid almond-shaped eyes that extend to touch the edge of the face, with discrete fields for the pupils, more provincial schools simplify the eyes into loops (cf. the fibulæ from Enger and Seeland in Haseloff, as above, figs. 94 and 95, dated to the 8th century). Our piece, however, whilst attempting to retain a refined, elongated eye shape, achieves rather a cross-eye effect. Whereas the Alfred Jewel, in the Ashmolean Museum (L Webster and J Backhouse, The Making of England, London 1991, no. 260), of the late 9th century, can be firmly attributed to a developing Anglo-Saxon tradition of enamelwork, yet remains unique in its representation of a figure, one would hesitate to attribute this mount to an Anglo-Saxon workshop. Interestingly, both show a pensive, elongated face, and both seem to have problems resolving the space between nose and chin; also, they are both flanked by vegetation motifs. The shape of the nose on our piece is distinctive. The best parallels to our mount are certainly to be found on the continent, amongst a number of more or less refined brooches showing 'saints' (see Haseloff, as above, figs. 68-82). It is therefore likely to be an imported prestige object, datable to the end of the 8th century, to be used as a mount on jewellery or, more probably, on some liturgical object.
(Dr. Anna Gannon)
Non-destructive X-ray fluorescence analysis of the object at The British Museum indicated a gold content of approximately 89%.
- On display (G2/fc171)
- Exhibition history
2014 Oct 14 - London, BM, G2, 'Collecting the World'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Metal-detector find.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Treasure/PAS number: 2004T141 (Treasure Number)
Treasure/PAS number: SF-176F05 (PAS Database Number)