The Pitney Brooch


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This elegant openwork brooch depicts a fierce battle between two creatures. A snake with round eyes is biting the neck of a four-legged animal, which in turn bites itself. The animal’s body is marked out with a line of beads and its hip-joints with spirals. At the top of the brooch its foot, with three toes, can be seen.

The decoration is a rare and fine example of the merging of Viking Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon art styles. The design, with its plant-like tendrils and ribbon animals, is an Anglo-Saxon version of the latest style of Viking art, known as the Urnes Style. However, the delicate beading which picks out the main animal and the brooch’s scalloped border are Anglo-Saxon features.

The brooch was cast in copper alloy and gilded all over to give a rich gold appearance. The skill needed to make it hints that it was worn by a man or woman of some importance, and the brooch itself would have been considered a symbol of prestige. Remains of the pin holder survive on the back of the brooch.


  • Title: The Pitney Brooch
  • Date Created: 1050/1099
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 39.00mm; Height: 5.00mm; Weight: 15.00g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: gilded; beadwork
  • Subject: reptile; animal
  • Registration number: 1979,1101.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired Pitney
  • Period/culture: Viking; Late Anglo-Saxon
  • Material: copper alloy; gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Hardinge-Francis, R

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