Staffordshire Hoard Conservation Programme Completed

A new post on the Staffordshire Hoard website has announced completion of the cleaning and conservation project. With many tiny fragments emerging from the soil during this process, the total number of pieces is now about 4,000. Several pieces have been reconstructed from these fragments, with surprising results. The research phase is continuing and a catalog, research reports and much more will be available online in 2018. The Hoard website already has an excellent photo gallery of some of the key objects. Read the latest here (opens in a new tab or window). – http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/news/staffordshire-hoard-conservation-programme-completed

Our Object the the Week: A Merovingian Frankish Silver and Glass Buckle, Late 5th – 6th Century AD

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This week we have selected a superb silver and glass buckle from Late Antiquity. This object was made at the moment in history when the Western European provinces of the Roman Empire were slipping further from centralised authority and becoming the de facto semi-barbarian kingdoms of the Franks, Visigoths, Saxons and others. Our object dates to the late 5th or 6th Century AD.

Intended either as a shoe buckle or a baldric buckle, this object features a nearly heart shaped silver “case” in which translucent, nearly transparent, red glass has been set. Holding this in place at the top or front facing side of the buckle is a silver frame that extends forward forming a double loop that also holds the buckle loop and tongue in place. It then folds back to form an attachment plate on the reverse with two pins that would have passed through fabric or leather. A supporting silver bar with two globular headed rivets adorns the center front of the buckle.

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The decorative technique used on this buckle was intended to imitate more expensive cloisonné decoration in either enamel or inset garnets. Cloisonné was a very popular decorative technique during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages. The name is derived from the French word “cloison” meaning “cell”. This refers to the technique of creating individual spaces by using thin metal wires or panels and filling these cells with garnets or other semi-precious stones or with colored enamel (glass paste). The most expensive cloisonné decoration involved garnets, typically imported from Sri Lanka. Enamel cloisonné was also common and used on buckles and strap ends, weapon handles and scabbards, brooches, jewelry and many other small objects.

Although colored enamel decoration on metalwork had a long history in pre-Roman Europe, continuing through the Roman period in the western provinces, the particular type of cloisonné we are concerned with here seems to have reached Europe by contact with the migratory cultures of Goths, Vandals, Franks and others during the 4th Century AD. This contact involved controlled settlement of some populations in exchange for military service, direct conflict with other groups (sometimes defeated militarily, sometimes paid off and kept at bay beyond the Roman frontiers) and forcible occupation of Roman territory, changing the cultural, political and artistic landscape of Europe over the next few centuries. The use of colored glass held in place by a metal casing, as with our object, was a less expensive but still striking technique that could imitate both enamel cloisonné and inset garnet decoration.

For those interested in acquiring this item it may be found in our Etsy store:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/452873332/merovingian-frankish-silver-and-glass?ref=shop_home_active_4

and our eBay shop: http://m.ebay.com/itm/Merovingian-Frankish-Silver-and-Glass-Buckle-Late-5th-6th-Century-AD-/131878940987?nav=SELLING_ACTIVE

 

Royal Gold Cup, British Museum, Duc de Berry

Medieval Antiquities in London: The British Museum and Museum of London

In dealing with antiquities, one tends to focus on objects truly “ancient” in that they belong to cultures such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome. Defining precisely what is ancient or an antiquity is itself something of a puzzle, with scholars, dealers, curators and collectors all having varying opinions. Clio Ancient Art has defined any object made prior to the year 1500 AD as an antiquity. This allows art and artifacts from the later Byzantine Empire, Medieval Europe (or at least Europe prior to the full flowering of the Renaissance) and Medieval Islam to be included.

Great Britain is fortunate to be among those societies that live every day with the physical evidence of a continuum of culture all around them. Most English museums, even in small communities, have excellent collections of the art and artifacts of every day life, ranging from the stone age to the industrial era, including the loosely defined “Middle Ages” – In England, the period beginning with the Roman departure from Britain and ending with the rise of the Tudor Dynasty. Those living in London are especially fortunate in having two spectacular collections of Medieval antiquities to visit: The British Museum and the Museum of London. This photo essay examines a few personal favorites from among countless marvelous objects dating to this broad period of time. All photos should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities.

Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Post-Roman, early Medieval, Saxon Brooch, Saxon shield boss, Museum of London

A Saxon silver gilt brooch and gold shield bosses, all dated to around 600 AD and found in the greater London area. Behind them, an early hand made Saxon pottery vessel. Museum of London.

Saxon art, Saxon England, Saxon brooch, Museum of London

A brooch made of copper decorated with gold plates, gold wire and polished garnets. Dated to about 650 AD, it belonged to a wealthy Saxon woman who was buried in what is now Covent Garden with beads, rings and other personal items. Museum of London.

Viking spearheads, Viking weapons, Museum of London, Viking London

Viking bronze spearheads found in the Thames and dating to the 700s and 800s AD. Museum of London.

Anglo-Norse, Anglo-Saxon art, Museum of London

A grave marker dated to shortly after 1000 AD, found near St Paul Cathedral in 1852. The style is Anglo-Norse and was popular in both Scandinavia and late Saxon England. It depicts a stylized lion in combat with a serpent. Museum of London.

Constantinople, Byzantine Art, Byzantine Empire, Byzantine triptych, Borradaile tryptych

Known as the Borradaile Triptych, this magnificent work of ivory was created between 900 and 1000 AD in Constantinople (today known as Istanbul), capital of the Byzantine Empire, and made its way to a convent in France at some time in the Middle Ages. The British Museum.

Ivory comb, British Museum, Medieval Art

An otherwise indecipherable Latin inscription on this comb of elephant ivory, an exotic material, contains the word “God” suggesting it was made for religious ceremonies. It dates to between 1080 and 1100 AD. At this time in England, combs were used to groom the priest prior to consecration of the bread and wine to avoid their being contaminated. The British Museum.

Medieval glass, Venetian glass, Islamic glass, Museum of London

Fine glass imported from distant lands was no doubt an expensive commodity in Medieval London. The green Islamic glass vessel at left dates to around the 10th Century. The two finely enameled Islamic glass shards at bottom center were made in Egypt or Syria in the 13th or 14th Century. The enameled glass at far right was made in Venice around 1300 AD. Museum of London.

Royal Gold Cup, British Museum, Duc de Berry

This remarkable enameled gold cup was commissioned by Jean Duc de Berry for his nephew Charles VI of France in 1391. The wars between England and France saw it pass to the English royal household in 1435. During Henry VIII’s reign Tudor roses were added to the stem. James I gave it to the Spanish ambassador in 1604 to mark a peace treaty and it was gifted to a Spanish convent in 1610, where it remained until appearing on the Paris art market in 1883.

Tristram and Isolde, Medieval tiles, British Museum

Wealthy private homes, churches and key public buildings often had floors covered in decorated ceramic tiles. The tile making industry flourished during the 13th, 14th and early 15th Century. This group of tiles tells the beginning of the popular story of the adulterous love affair between Tristram and Isolde. The full story sequence would have included over 30 of these groups of tiles. They were probably commissioned for an important private residence. Late 13th Century. The British Museum.

Medieval art, Medieval enamel brooch, British Museum

This brooch was made in either England or France around 1400 AD. It features white enamel with a pink tourmaline, a stone that would have been rare at the time and probably came from Sri Lanka. Henry of Lancaster, later King Henry IV of England, is known to have given this type of white enamel jewelery to his friends. The British Museum, on loan from All Souls College, Oxford University.

Fishpool Hoard, Medieval art, Medieval coins, Medieval jewelery, British Museum

Above and Below: The Fishpool Hoard of gold coins and jewelery, buried around 1464, based on the latest coins in the hoard. It consists of nearly 1,300 gold coins and many pieces of fine jewelery. It seems to have been buried by a Lancastrian sympathizer fleeing the Battle of Hexham (during the Wars of the Roses), as the Lancastrians were defeated by the Yorkists there.

13 WPMed hoard 1 BM

To see Clio’s selection of medieval antiquities, especially Saxon, Visigoth, Frankish, Norman, Byzantine and Islamic objects, visit these pages: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/c26_p1.htmland http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/c26_p2.html

New Video: Mounting & Installing Staffordshire Hoard in New Gallery

http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/video/installing-hoard-gallery – A new video on the Staffordshire Hoard, featuring the mounting and installing of Hoard objects into the new Staffordshire Hoard gallery at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The new gallery opened on 17th October.

News Item: Rich Grave Goods Point to East Anglian Royal Family

A remarkable excavation in the town of Exning, Suffolk, England may have uncovered members of the royal family of the ancient Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. Twenty-one graves with rich grave goods, some imported from the Continent, dated to about 650 AD, point to this possible connection.

Here is a link to an article about this find in the British press (link opens in a new tab or window): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2838214/Have-ROYAL-skeletons-Suffolk-Bodies-buried-vast-amounts-jewellery-linked-King-Anna-East-Anglia.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

One of the key imported grave goods from this find is a glass bowl probably made in the Rhineland. The news article above includes an image of this, which would have been a very high status item in early Anglo-Saxon England. Here is an image of a similar bowl, on display in the Dover Museum.

ancient glass, Anglo-Saxon glass, Medieval glass

Glass bowl, dated AD 600-650, possibly from the Rhineland, in Dover Museum. Photo Credit: Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities

We will report further as more news of this discovery becomes available.

The Latest Short Film Exploring the Staffordshire Hoard

Here is the latest in a series of excellent short films exploring the Staffordshire Hoard. This one explores “The Mystery Object” – http://historywm.com/films/6-the-mystery-object/

Also, a new permanent gallery dedicated to the Staffordshire Hoard will open at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in October.