This brooch displays the Anglo-Saxon preference for lavish decoration, with a particular emphasis on fantastic animal forms. Dividing the foot is a strip of niello (a black substance containing silver, copper, lead, and sulphur) terminating in an animal’s head, and above the foot is a pair of stylized animal heads with gaping jaws.
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Title:Square-Headed Bow Brooch
Medium:Gilded copper alloy inlaid with niello
Dimensions:Overall: 5 3/8 x 3 x 15/16 in. (13.6 x 7.6 x 2.4 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Alastair B. Martin, Levy Hermanos Foundation Inc. and J. William Middendorf II Gifts, 1985
Two prevailing influences converged somewhere between the Baltic and the Black Sea to initiate the development of this kind of brooch. Examples of small silver bow fibulae with square or rectangular heads, which originated in the Crimea and date from the third century A.D., are thought to have provided the model for the square or rectangular head of the type. Northern elements are represented by the open-jawed heads of the monsters just below the bow, in addition to other animal motifs, and by the partitioned, lozenge-shaped foot plate, whose surface is decorated with "kerbshnitt" (chip carving) and its extremities with raised knobs (the one on the end of the foot is now missing). Dividing the foot is a strip of niello (a black substance containing silver, copper, lead, and sulphur) terminating in an animal's head, and above the foot is a pair of stylized animal heads with gaping jaws.
The bow is plain and is divided into panels by bands of niello. It is the border of freestanding masks that sets the Museum's example apart from the majority of great square-headed brooches, and allies it to a small group identified as the Lutton Heath type. The Museum's brooch, like most of the approximately 150 known square-headed examples that were made in England throughout the sixth century, displays the Anglo-Saxon preference for lavish surface decoration. These brooches, traditionally of gilt bronze, were used to secure the garments of peasant farmers. They were worn with the head plate upward, unlike some of the related Continental bow fibulae.
Sotheby's, London(1981 or 1982); [ Ward & Company Works of Art (American), New York (1981-sold 1985)]
Ward & Co. Works of Art. "Jewels of the Barbarians: A Dark Ages Treasury," October 22–December 14, 1985.
State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. "Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki," June–December 1989.
State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. "Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki," February–July 1990.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mirror of the Medieval World," March 9–June 1, 1999.
Faider-Feytmans, G. "Une Fibule Arquée Provenant de Marchélepot." La Revue du Louvre et Des Musées de France 1 (1961). pp. 11–14.
Ward, Michael. Jewels of the Barbarians. New York: Michael Ward, 1985. no. 30, ill.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Recent Acquisitions, 1985-1986 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1986). p. 14.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. "One Hundred Sixteenth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year July 1, 1985, through June 30, 1986." Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 116 (1986). p. 33.
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Parker, Elizabeth C. "Recent Acquisitions of Medieval Art by American Museums." Gesta 26, no. 1 (1987). p. 80, fig. 7.
Pushkin Museum and State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki: Kratkii Katalog Vystavki. Moscow: Pushkin Museum, 1990. no. 4, pp. 10, 17, fig. 4.
State Hermitage Museum. Dekorativno-Prikladnoe Iskusstvo ot Pozdnei Antichnosti do Pozdnei Gotiki. St. Petersburg: State Hermitage Museum, 1990. no. 4, pp. 16–17.
Brown, Katharine R. Migration Art, A.D. 300-800. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. no. 61, p. 42.
Hines, John, and E. T. Leeds. A New Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-Headed Brooches. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Vol. 51. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press, 1997.
Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 57, p. 46.
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. 289, 358, fig. 23.14.
Hourihane, Colum P., ed. The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. p. 86, pl. IV, fig. 1.
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