The Hexham Plaque


British Museum

British Museum

This thin silver plaque was discovered in the nineteenth century in Hexham, famous for an early Anglo-Saxon church and sculpture associated with Saints Acca and Wilfrid. The plaque may have been a simple devotional image or formed part of a book-cover or reliquary. Silver sheet was incised from both sides in a linear fashion to make the portrait of a figure with a halo and hands linked over a panel with two small crosses. He is probably wearing the robes of a bishop and seems to hold a book also marked with a cross, which would be the Bible or one of the four Gospels. A diagonally hatched frame surrounds the portrait.This appealing and expressive free-hand decoration is highly unusual in Anglo-Saxon art. It is difficult to compare with other pieces but similar depictions are found in wood on St Cuthbert's coffin of about AD 700, where sophisticated holy portraits are given this simple treatment, and there is also a Merovingian metal shrine in this style.

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  • Title: The Hexham Plaque
  • Date Created: 700/799
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 9.90cm; Width: 7.40cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: incised
  • Subject: saint/martyr; cross; book/newspaper
  • Registration number: 1858,0814.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Hexham
  • Period/culture: Middle Anglo-Saxon
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Lee, Frederick George