Gilded silver brooch


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This brooch was worn to fasten a cloak or mantle. The decoration of every available space is typical of Germanic jewellery from the fifth century onwards and is often referred to as horror vacui, a Latin phrase meaning ‘fear of an empty space’. The animals and visual puzzle of the design may have been intended to protect the wearer from evil influence.

The brooch is radiate-headed in form, with an outer arc of knobs cast in the form of animal heads. On the sides and end are heads of birds of prey and animals. The gilded central panel and oval foot are decorated with two entwined, rather snake-like, ‘Style II’ animals.

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  • Title: Gilded silver brooch
  • Date Created: 600/650
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 163.00mm; Width: 96.00mm; Depth: 15.00mm; Weight: 204.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: cast; gilded; inlaid; applied; nielloed
  • Subject: animal
  • Registration number: 1851,0806.10
  • Place: Found/Acquired Tuscany
  • Period/culture: Lombardic
  • Material: gold; copper alloy; niello; silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from della Rusca, Pietro