Medieval Europe + Byzantine
- Anglo-Saxon England
- Sutton Hoo ship burial
- The Sutton Hoo ship burial
- Sutton Hoo ship burial (quiz)
- The Sutton Hoo purse lid
- The Sutton Hoo helmet
- Decoding Anglo-Saxon art
- Great square-headed brooch from Chessell Down
- Fibulae (quiz)
- The Franks Casket
- The Lindisfarne Gospels
- The Lindisfarne Gospels
- Lindisfarne Gospels (quiz)
- Codex Amiatinus, the oldest complete Latin Bible
- The Utrecht Psalter and its influence
- The Fuller Brooch
Because buttons and zippers hadn't been invented, clothes in Anglo-Saxon England were fastened with pins or brooches.
Great square-headed brooch, early 6th century, Early Anglo-Saxon, From Grave 22, Chessell Down, Isle of Wight, © Trustees of the British Museum
This fine silver-gilt and niello brooch is perhaps the most beautiful of all surviving great square-headed brooches. The casting reveals an artist in complete mastery of his material and current art styles. The brooch was found by George Hillier in 1855 in the grave of a woman, together with two stamped pendants, a pair of tweezers, and iron knife and a waist buckle. It was probably made in the first quarter of the sixth century.
The brooch is the best example of a small group of brooches that reflect southern Scandinavian influence. Like its Scandinavian predecessors, it was cast in silver and then gilt on its front surface. The piece has close stylistic parallels with objects found in Kent, although large square-headed brooches are not typical Kentish types.
The outer border of the head-plate is decorated with scrolls on the sides and two Style I quadrupeds with long ears and humanoid feet at the centre. Scrolls and disembodied Style I body parts fill the rest of the headplate field within borders of stamped and nielloed triangles. The bow is plain. The footplate below the bow is decorated with face masks in the side lobes and another larger face mask in the centre below two Style I heads.
C.J. Arnold, The Anglo-Saxon cemeteries on the Isle of Wight (London, The British Museum Press, 1982).
E.T. Leeds, A corpus of early Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1949).
J. Hines, A new corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-Headed Brooches(Woodbridge, Boydell for the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1997).
R.A. Smith, A guide to the Anglo-Saxon and Foreign Teutonic Antiquities (London, British Museum, 1923).
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© Trustees of the British Museum
Want to join the conversation?
- In the second paragraph, what does niello mean? As in "niello brooch".(7 votes)
- Niello means a black compound of sulfur with silver, lead, or copper, used for filling in engraved designs in silver or other metals(11 votes)
- Could we please add an essay discussing the so called Styles earlier in this chapter?(3 votes)
- "The brooch was found by George Hillier in 1855 in the grave of a woman, together with two stamped pendants, a pair of tweezers, and iron knife and a waist buckle."
What was this Mr. George Hillier doing robbing graves in 1855 and why is this not seen as a problem??(1 vote)
- He would either have been looting the grave, or been stealing the corpse for dissection by surgeons for medical students to learn about the human body. In 1855 there were many grave robbers and although they were seen as a problem no effective measures were taken against them, one famous story is an innkeeper whose coffin was placed on a beam of his inn so no one could get to it without first passing all the customers. (this may not actually be true, it's a story)(3 votes)
- How did they know it was the grave of a woman? did they find a body?(1 vote)
- the other items found with it are the kinds of things that were buried with women. Men had other tools to take with them into the afterlife(1 vote)