Sold Antiquities 2017

With the new year well under way, this seems a good time to share with our readers a sample of the many antiquities and antiquities-related artwork we sold in 2017. In addition to these, we also sold many more ancient coins, antique prints and books dealing with antiquities and ancient art.

 

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A sampling of antiquities available for holiday shopping

As we approach the holiday shopping season, we thought you might enjoy a simple photo montage of some of the fine antiquities we have available for purchase this year. We can be found online here:

Our Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt

Our eBay store: https://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities

Our Amazon book shop: www.amazon.com/shops/ClioAncientArt

Antiquities News Update

There have been several exciting antiquities related developments in the news over the past month, particularly in the field of Roman archaeology. Here is a roundup of some we found especially interesting (links open in a new tab or window). –

* A great short video on one artifact from The British Museum’s multicultural Sicily exhibition – https://youtu.be/rLhfKLGEY2U

* Rare discovery of Late Roman official buried in Leicester –
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160707101031.html

* Roman Ceramic Factory Found in Israel – http://www.livescience.com/55523-roman-pottery-shop-israel-photos.html

* Bronze figure of Roman goddess unearthed at Arbeia
in South Shields – http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/bronze-figure-roman-goddess-unearthed-11673851

* August Blog update on excavations at Vindolanda Roman Fort – http://www.vindolanda.com/_blog/excavation

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

 

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM A BUCKLE?

In a recent blog entry we examined characteristics of a 5th-6th Century Frankish cloissone’ silver buckle, a high status object. In this entry we will examine aspects of some rather more mundane but also much more typical buckles from Late Antiquity and the transitional period involving the migration of peoples into Europe, the end of Roman authority in the west and the consolidation of Roman power in the east (the Byzantine Empire).

A group of 5 Visigoth bronze belt plates in our online shops, found in Spain and formerly in both an old Spanish and a California private collection, date to the 5th and 6th Centuries. By the early 6th Century, what is now the Iberian Peninsula was no longer part of the Roman world but largely under the control of the Visigoth Kingdom. The material culture and art of the Visigoths, their close relatives the Ostrogoths and Heruli, and other migratory people who settled in the former European provinces of the Roman Empire, focused on small, finely crafted objects, including jewelry and articles of personal dress. Such objects made from precious metals and adorned with cloissone’, gilding and other high status techniques tend to receive much attention in museum exhibitions and catalogs but these are not typical. Most personal dress items, such as the buckles listed here, were crafted from bronze or iron and decorated with simple incising or chip carving.

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Some common iconographic themes among all these objects include bird heads with large beaks, presumably raptors, and quadra pedal animals, usually quite stylized and sometimes nearly impossible to make out amidst a mass of contorted ornamentation. Viewing a close up of our group, the small belt plate in the center is a good example of the large beaked bird motif. The 2 buckle plates on the left clearly portray animals of some type but any specific identification is impossible. The buckle 2nd from right may include both animal and bird elements but these are far less distinct than on the other plates. A very clear related example of the beaked bird motif may be seen here (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=95393&partId=1&searchText=Byzantine+buckle&images=true&&page=1 ) on 2 mounts with all-over cloisonné garnet inlays in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, dating to the late 4th-5th Century, found at Kerch in the Crimea.

Buckles provide a remarkable insight into the transition of the formerly Roman European provinces into the semi-Barbarous states established by the now settled “Migration Period” peoples. In the later days of Roman control in western Europe, specifically the late 4th and the 5th Century, very large numbers of officers in the Roman army were of “barbarian” extraction, some rising to very high office. Increasingly, the weapons and objects of personal adornments used by Roman troops and their non-Roman opponents converged in terms of materials, effectiveness and even decorative treatment.  To illustrate the point, a late Roman (4th-5th Century) chip carved buckle in the British Museum (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=86295&partId=1&searchText=Roman%20chip%20carved%20buckle) shows a remarkable similarity in its surface treatment, which is chip-carved, to a Germanic, possibly Gepid, chip carved buckle, also in the British Museum (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=85657&partId=1&searchText=Germanic+buckle&images=true&page=1).

This convergence of styles was far less pronounced in the eastern provinces of the Empire – what we now call the Byzantine Empire (though the Byzantines themselves would not have understood this term, as they simply thought of themselves as Romans). A couple of complete belt buckles we offer, cast in the “cross and pelta” style, illustrate this. These show no hint of influence from the migratory cultures that had overrun the west. Their clean and solid lines suggest stability and authority. Far wealthier than the western provinces, and with central authority concentrated at Constantinopolis, the east was able, for the most part, to stay out of the chaotic relationships among the new semi-barbarous European kingdoms, and even to repel onslaughts from other migratory groups in the east, such as the Slavs, Avars, Alans and Huns.

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