Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund and Henry G. Keasbey Bequest, 1997
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 303
This delicately wrought and finely detailed tip of a pointer, or, less likely, a scepter, is one of the outstanding examples of cloisonné enameling produced during the Middle Byzantine era. Intimate in scale, it is entirely covered in elaborate foliate and geometric designs predominately worked in white, red, and translucent blue enamels. Ladderlike strips of cloisons in translucent green enamel separate the decorative patterns on the sides and hide the angles of the hexagonal form. The top is a flat dome; the base is finished with alternating lobes and semicircles. The enameled patterns are similar to designs found in Byzantine manuscript illuminations of the period. This tiny masterpiece was probably the end of a long pointer used to assist the speaker during the public reading of a manuscript.
The refinement of the decoration and the outstanding craftsmanship suggest that this is one of a small group of works associated with the imperial capital of Constantinople and possibly made for the royal court.