Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Gold Goblet and Cover (?)

Avar or Byzantine
a only: 6 5/8 × 4 3/4 in., 13.439 Troy Ounces (16.8 × 12.1 cm, 418g)
b only: 1.993 Troy Ounces (62g)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
17.190.1711a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 301
This goblet may in fact be a Byzantine export, though the foot of the cup does not conform to the standard shape of Byzantine chalices.

The Avars
The Avars were a nomadic tribe of mounted warriors from the Eurasian steppe. The Byzantine emperor Justinian negotiated with them in the sixth century to protect the Empire’s northern border along the Black Sea. Emboldened by their subjugation of numerous tribes, they unsuccessfully attempted to seize the Empire’s capital, Constantinople. They remained a scourge of both Byzantium and the Western kingdoms until Charlemagne defeated them through a series of campaigns in the 790s and early 800s.

All the money and treasure that the Avars had been years amassing was seized, and no war in which the Franks have ever engaged . . . brought them such riches and such booty. Up to that time the Avars had passed for a poor people, but so much gold and silver was found . . . that one may well think that the Franks took justly from the Avars what the Avars had formerly taken unjustly from other nations.
— Einhard (ca. 770–840), biographer of the Frankish ruler Charlemagne, early 800s

The Vrap Treasure
Tribute payments from the Byzantine Empire and war booty provided the Avars with enormous amounts of gold and silver. Avar goldsmiths created work of exceptionally high quality and were counted among the Avars’ ruling class. This ensemble of objects, all found together in Vrap, in present-day Albania, would seem to attest to the wealth of the Avars. Why this varied group was brought together remains a mystery. Some scholars have suggested that these objects were part of a treasure belonging to an Avar chief; others have speculated that they were the materials of an Avar artist. Others question whether an Avar metalsmith made them at all and assert these objects to be the products of a provincial Byzantine artist.
Found in Vrap, eastern Albania; J. Pierpont Morgan (American), London and New York (until 1917)
Strzygowski, Josef. Altai-Iran und Völkerwanderung: ziergeschichtliche Untersuchungen über die Eintritt der Wander- und Nordvölker in die Treibhäuser geistigen Lebens, anknüpfend an einen Schatzfund in Albanien. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1917. no. 3, p. 11.

Fettich, Nándor. "Das kunstgewerbe der avarenzeit in Ungarn." In Archaeologica Hungarica. Vol. 1. Budapest, 1926. p. 25.

Rosenberg, Marc. Der Goldschmiede Merkzeichen. Vol. IV. Frankfurt: Frankfurter Verlags Anstalt, 1928. no. 4983, p. 5.

Alföldi, Andreas. "Zur historischen Bestimmung der Avarenfunde." Eurasia septentrionalis antiqua 9 (1934). p. 300, fig. II.

The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East. Worcester, Mass.: Worcester Art Museum, 1937. p. 42.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 27, pp. 36-37.

Brown, Katharine R., Dafydd Kidd, and Charles T. Little, ed. From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. p. 343, fig. 18.

Minaeva, Oksana. "On Some Peculiarities of the Shape and Decoration of the Vessels form the Vrap Treasure, Albania." Problemi na izkustvoto 1 (2000-2001). no. 6, p. 21, fig. 27.

Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). pp. 32-33.

Piguet-Panayotova, Dora. "The Gold and Silver Vessels from the Albanian Treasure in a New Light." Mitteilungen zur spätantiken Archäologie und byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte 3 (2002). pp. 49, 51, 54, fig. 15.

Norris, Michael. Medieval Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 4, pp. 38-39.

Holcomb, Melanie. "Ugly... but Important: The Albanian Hoard and the Making of the Archaeological Treasure in the Early Twentieth Century." Early Medieval Europe 16, no. 1 (February 2008). pp. 4, 9, fig. 1, 4.

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