'Jutlandic' great square-headed brooch
online resourceposted on 26.10.2021, 15:09 by Helena HamerowHelena Hamerow
Silver-gilt great square-headed brooch, length 9.9cm. Top right hand corner broken away. Border to upper edge of head plate is a narrow raised silver ridge (not gilded) with nielloed zig-zag; lower border a plain silver ridge with the more usual reserved silver zig-zag with nielloed triangles; sides have no outer border. The outer zone of decoration consists basically of a pair of Style I animals in good relief well gilded. The heads are in the bottom panels flanking the top of the bow, facing downwards: they have the look of human heads, with 2-strand hair across top of head, knotted by ear, and hanging in one strand below. Slanting oval eye, underlined, then 2 bars and what may be a pointed beard. Neck at right-angles to heads, reaching up side panel in 3 strands to the spiral shoulder joint; fore-leg with simple collared foot stretched down above neck towards head. Centre strand of neck and flank next following is decorated with row of circular beads produced by nicking. 3 strand body (flank) terminates in upper corners of plate in a pear-shaped hip joint, with a simple foot stretched across the top panel claws upwards. Another hip and clawed foot interlocks with this one beneath, and its collared 2-clawed foot turns the inner corner of the panel. This foot probably belongs to a second creature, one of a pair confronted at the top centre of the plate. If so, this foot is flicking upwards because the rest of the creature faces upwards and inwards. It has a slight 2-strand body, pear-shaped shoulder and crouched forefoot, arched 2-strand neck, and triple collar with notched centre bar behind head. Head crude; triangular brow, round eye, bulbous cheek. The profile heads of the two upper creatures confronted makes a double image of a full-faced mask also glaring out from top centre.The inner panel of the headplate has silver ridge-border with two rows of nielloed triangles making reserved silver zig-zag. Above the bow is an upward facing full-face mask with 2 strand hair, pop-eyes, short triangular nose, and triangular beard. This is flanked on either side by a pair of creatures contorted to fit the space. Pear-shaped hip and foot in inner corner next mask, facing outwards, 2-strand back, spiral shoulder joint in outer corner, triangular motif, perhaps a foot in top corner, then the head turned in towards the mask at the top; double collar, triangular peak with what appears to be breaks floating before, and large globular cheeks. Seen this way up, the confronted heads give the impression of a second full-face mask - the cheeks becoming eyes, the beaks eyebrows, and the beard of the inverted mask the nose, etc. It is a pretty characteristic example of this type of double or even treble image effect which is common on Style I art of this period and style.The bow, steep sided with a flat top; edges of bow decorated with ascending grooves, the lowest with decorative punching. The top recessed, with an inner ridge (nicked) enclosing a rather crude full-face mask; peaked hair or helmet, globular cheeks, little sharp diamond-shaped beard.At sides of footplate at top are pendant animal heads, with nielloed brow-band (alternating triangles), circlet eye, nose etc. possibly a pursed human mouth, then a huge swelling beak which curls inside the neck, inwards and upwards. Necks of the creature grooved and nicked; inner edge of raised silver relief band which curves in and out to join the roundels at sides of plate; the lozenge-shaped border of the undivided foot bears a single in-facing line of nielloed triangles, whereas the side roundels simply have a nielloed groove (median). Full face masks in side roundel are very simple: again the peaked helmet or cap, a single rounded eye at centre, flanked by globular cheeks, and with little arched mouth below. At centre of footplate, a quatrefoil in relief, with median grooves, surrounded by nicked inner border. At bottom of footplate the nielloed border of the internal lozenge leads down into a horizontal brow band (double row of nielloed triangles) belonging to a full-face mask with arched brows, crescentic eyes and triangular nose and long inverted triangular beard. Nose and beard project down into the frame of the lower roundel, which is horse-shoe shaped, with ends against eyes of masks. Its frame bears a single row of nielloed triangles. Within this frame the mask's beard is flanked by some blundered ornament which may be meant for legs. Around lower edges of lower lobe, is a simple border with short rows of punched circlets separated by groups of transverse grooves. The area between the lower and outer lobes of footplate, outside the frame, is on one side broken away entirely, but on the other carries an upward climbing creature facing inwards, with 2 strand back, pear-shaped shoulder and collared foot; collared neck and head with circlet eye, globular cheek, triangular helmet and floating beak feature.The brooch has suffered much wear and much hard usage. Bow top and sides much abraded; projecting angles rounded off, but in general the wear is not so severe as on some of these Kentish great square heads. Footplate and bow appear worse worn than the headplate. Slight casting fault at base of bow has been made good by new metal run in. Bow cracked across at top, now repaired inside by modern solder and so much modern mess that it is impossible to tell whether there was an old repair or not. Foot also broken off and repaired by blob of solder, so again difficult to tell how original.Catchplate missing, though there are marks on the bronze to tell that it was a long one extending from top to bottom of plate. On headplate a pair of perforated lugs for the spring coil. Iron corrosion here suggests iron coil and pin.Described and illustrated as a buckle in Faussett 1856, xxxv, pl. VIII.3. – D.H.