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Pitney Brooch

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Pitney Brooch
  • Description

    Dished gilt copper-alloy disc brooch, Urnes style. Within a scalloped border, the convex surface of the circular brooch bears an openwork design of a coiled, ribbon animal in combat with a snake. The head has a pronounced lentoid eye, and an S-shaped lappet on the upper jaw; a second lappet projects from the neck. The creature bites its own body, which is composed of a plain and a beaded band, forming a heart-shaped loop. It has spiral hips; the sharply angled foreleg terminates in a three-toed foot and the hind-leg divides into two tendrils, the longer one interlacing with the body to terminate in a foliate trefoil. A snake's head with two prominent eyes, seen from above, bites the animal's neck. Its thin body, with one tendril offshoot, interlaces with that of the animal, and ends in two scrolled tendrils. The reverse of the brooch is also gilded, with the remains of the hinge and catch-plate for the pin, which is now lost.


  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 11thC(late)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 39 millimetres
    • Height: 5 millimetres
    • Weight: 15 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    Webster et al 1984
    An outstanding example of the Urnes style in England, the Pitney brooch, with its clear combat motif, is closer to its Scandinavian counterparts than other objects found in this country, but displays various Insular characteristics such as tightly scrolled terminals and a scalloped border. A poorer version of this brooch, in copper alloy, was found at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire (British Museum 1980, no. 148).
    Provenance: Pitney, Somerset; found in the churchyard, possibly in the 1870s. Purchased in 1979.

    Exhibitions: British Museum 1980, J. Graham-Campbell, ‘Viking Artefaces – A Select Catalogue’, London, no. 147; Copenhagen, Aarhus and York 1981-2, ‘The Vikings in England and their Danish Homeland’, 1981-2, no. L5; London, Hayward Gallery 1984, ‘English Romanesque Art 1066-1200’, Arts Council of Great Britain, no. 225.

    Bibliography: Wilson, D.M. 1964, ‘Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum, Catalogue of Antiquities of the Later Saxon Period’, I, London, no. 60 and refs, PL. XXVIII; Wilson, D.M. and Klindt-Jensen, O. 1966, ‘Viking Art’, London, 154-5, PL. LXXIII:e; Hinton, D.A. 1974, ‘A Catalogue of the Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork in the Department of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum’, Oxford, 44; Wilson, D.M. 1976, ‘The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England’, London, 402; Wilson, D.M. 1978, The dating of Viking art in England, ‘Anglo-Saxon and Viking Sculpture’, ed. J. Lang (‘British Archaeological Reports’, BS 49), Oxford, 143; Graham-Campbell, J. and Kidd, D. 1980, ‘The Vikings’, London, 177, PL. 107; Campbell, J. ed. 1982, ‘The Anglo-Saxons’, Oxford, 193, no. 170; Wilson, D.M. 1984, ‘Anglo-Saxon Art’, London, 208, PL. 272.Graham Campbell 1980
    This brooch is a fine example of the English version of the Urnes style, to be compared with an openwork mount from Lincoln (Lincoln Archaeological Trust: DT741.SZ.AE108). The single main animal interlaced with a snake makes it the nearest piece of metalwork in England to the Scandinavian Urnes style animal-brooches (Reykjavík, (NM): 6524; Aalborg Historiske Museum: 129x1397), but the circular scalloped frame and the looped body (cp. 148), with its beaded border, are all non-Scandinavian features. The 'combat-motif of the Pitney brooch is, however, a direct link to the compositions on the Urnes church (see Graham-Campbell 1980, cat. no. 501).

    Date: Late Viking Period.

    Literature: Brøndsted, J. (1924): 'Early English Ornament', London/Copenhagen, 145, fig. 120; Shetelig, H. (ed.) (1940): 'Viking Antiquities in Great Britain and Ireland IV', Oslo, 57, fig. 24; Kendrick, T. D. (1949): 'Late Saxon and Viking Art', London, 116-7, pl.lxxxii; Moe, O. H. (1955): 'Urnes and the British Isles', Acta Archaeologia, xxvi, 17; Wilson, D. M., and Klindt-Jensen, O. (1966): 'Viking Art', London, 154-5, pi. lxxiii.e; Graham-Campbell, J. A. and Kidd, D. (1980): 'The Vikings', London, pl. 106.Wilson 1964
    Found in the churchyard at Pitney.

    Eleventh century.

    See pp. 3, 48, 51, 52 and pl. XXVIII.

    Bibliography: 'Victoria History of the Counties of England: Somersetshire', i, 380 and coloured plate.


  • Bibliography

    • Webster et al 1984 110 bibliographic details
    • Marzinzik 2013 125 bibliographic details
    • Graham-Campbell 1980 147 bibliographic details
    • Wilson 1964 60 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G41/dc25/sB

  • Exhibition history

    2008 14 Dec-2009 12 Jul, Germany, Speyer, Historisches Museum der Pfalz, The Vikings
    1997 Sep-Nov, Taunton, Castle Museum, Somerset: 1200 Years
    1992 26 Dec-1993 14 Mar, Denmark, Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet, Vikings and Christians
    1992 1 Sep-15 Nov, Germany, Berlin, Altes Museum, Wikinger, Waräger, Normannen. Die Skandinavier und Europa 800-1200
    1992 1 Apr-20 Jul, France, Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Les Vikings... Les Scandinaves et l’Europe 800-1200
    1984 5 Apr-8 Jul, London, Hayward Gallery, English Romanesque Art 1066-1200
    1982 3 Apr-31 Oct, York, Yorkshire Museum, The Vikings in England and their Danish Homeland
    1981 5 Sep-31 Dec, Denmark, Århus, Moesgård Museum, The Vikings in England and their Danish Homeland
    1981 11 Apr-16 Aug, Denmark, Copenhagen, The Danish National Museum, The Vikings in England and their Danish Homeland
    1980 4 Oct-1981 4 Jan, USA, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Vikings
    1980 19 Feb-20 July, London, BM, The Vikings

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition notes

    Found in 1870's; originally on loan to BM (since 1931) Deposit Register I p29.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: The Pitney Brooch


COMPASS Title: The Pitney Brooch

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