Pair of Fibulae

unknown400 AD - 420 AD

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

The most important find on Austrian soil from the Migration Period was made in 1910 at Untersiebenbrunn on the eastern border of present-day Austria. It is the burial site of a 20 to 24-year-old woman and furnished with more than the average splendour. The grave was discovered accidentally by workmen digging for gravel and was plundered in great haste. It contained valuable jewellery, items of clothing and decoration, toilet articles of precious metal, glass tableware as well as parts of bridles from a saddle-horse and two draughthorses. A few months later, the skeleton of a seven-year-old child (the daughter of the deceased?) was found. Today the articles recovered from this grave are in the Museum of Ancient History (Museum fur Frühgeschichte) in Traismauer (Lower Austria).The two magnificently decorated polychrome fibulae are masterpieces of the goldsmith’s art at the time of the Great Migrations. They are made of silvercovered with gold foil and edged with beaded gold wire. The surface was decorated with variously coloured inlays (semiprecious stones, primarily garnets,some convex, some cut flat, as well as glass and enamel). Between them are tinygold granules soldered to the surface in groups of three. The contrast of the colourful inlays with the gold colour of the setting creates an optical effect that is characteristic of what has been termed “polychrome style”. The contents of the graves of Untersiebenbrunn show strong influences of ahorse-riding nomadic culture, but the glass vessels found there are of Roman manufacture. The fibulae may be ascribed to Germanic culture; the East Germanic people wore them in pairs to fasten women’s clothing, usually at the shoulder. The graves have been dated to the early 5th century AD. Their contents were the possessions of a family of high social rank, with roots in both the East Germanic and horse-riding nomadic cultures.
© Kurt Gschwantler, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher, Manuela Laubenberger, Georg Plattner, Karoline Zhuber-Okrog, Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2011


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