Wednesday 26 July 2006 12:37
Department for Culture, Media And Sport (National)
Culture Minister defers export of two outstanding Anglo-Saxon finds
Culture Minister, David Lammy, has placed a temporary export bar on two outstanding Anglo-Saxon finds: a gilded mount with interlace decoration and great square-headed brooch. This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep these items in the United Kingdom.
The Minister's ruling follows recommendations by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The Committee recommended that the export decision on both items be deferred on the grounds that they were of outstanding significance for the study of Anglo-Saxon fine metal work.
The quality of execution, intricate animal ornament, and intact gilding of both objects combine to make them exceptional. The sixth-century brooch is complete and the seventh-century mount almost complete. Study of the gilded mount has the potential to extend our understanding of metalwork production and distribution in the seventh century, of contacts between Anglo-Saxon England and the Celtic peoples to the North, about the role of fine metalwork in religious and secular life, and about the function of such mounts.
Study of the brooch, which relates to a few other high-quality sixth-century brooches but differs in its large size and different combination of elements, offers an enhanced possibility of 'reading' the highly schematized animal and mask ornament which occurs in this group. Study of the details may also offer insight into the ways in which such motifs were transferred and recombined and shed light on workshop practice and distribution. The presence of remnants of textile on the back of the brooch opens up the possibility of a further area of research.
The decision on the export licence application for both the mount and the brooch will be deferred for a period ending on 25th September inclusive. In each case, this period may be extended until 25th November inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making (i) an offer to purchase the gilded mount at the recommended price of £7,000 (excluding VAT) is expressed.; (ii) an offer to purchase the square-headed brooch at the recommended price of £15,000 (excluding VAT) is expressed.
Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the gilded mount and/or the square headed brooch should contact the owner's agent through:
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council,
London WC1B 4EA
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, run by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.
A gilded Anglo-Saxon mount
2. The mount is decorated with animal ornament of the so-called Germanic Style II arranged concentrically in two zones. Its well-balanced composition of extremely fine interlacing animal motifs is of beautiful execution and fluidity. The design in the outer ornament zone represents a highly stylised version of animal interlace and is of unusual layout: the interlace strands of the jaws are passing through the slotted body rather than around it, a feature that has only few parallels, one of them on the great gold buckle from Sutton Hoo.
3. The 7th century was a period of intense and rapid religious, political, social and artistic change in England and the mount should contribute to our understanding of these. It has three very close parallels, probably made in the same workshop. Two identical discs were found at a cemetery site at Allington Hill, Cambridgeshire, (now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge); to these has recently been added a metal-detected fragment found in the Dornoch area, Perthshire, Scotland. In addition, the decoration of the new mount is closely linked to that of some of the earliest decorated Insular manuscripts, such as the Book of Durrow (Trinity College,Library, Dublin Ms 4.5) and two Gospel books in Durham Cathedral Library (Mss A.II.10 and A.II.17). This reawakens central questions about the influence of traditional 'pagan-style' metalwork on Christian manuscripts in the Conversion period in Anglo-Saxon England.
4. Although the mount has unfortunately lost its provenance, preserving it in the UK would permit detailed analysis and comparison of these and other related pieces. There is also fresh scope to examine the function of such mounts: their exact use is at present unknown. Although commonly described as harness fittings, it has also been suggested that they once adorned caskets, or even reliquaries. The addition of the new mount permits analysis of the group and other related pieces which could shed light on their function.
5. The mount measures 8.6 cm in diameter.
An Anglo-Saxon great square-headed brooch
6. The copper-alloy great square-headed brooch still retains most of its original gilding. The front is decorated with complex chip-carved animal ornament and three-dimensional stylized masks. It is in a fine state of preservation, with lavishly gilded surface treatment and highly structured and enigmatic decoration.
7. Although it is regrettable that the brooch's original context is unknown, such prestige objects could travel some way from their point of origin, so a find-spot in itself might not have necessarily shed light on its origin. Its decoration certainly offers potential for work on the meaning of such ornament, a topic which is currently attracting greatly increased interest among specialists in the Anglo-Saxon and continental Germanic field.
8. Analysis of the alloy has also the potential to give new information on workshop links and developing practices.
9. The brooch is a particularly impressive specimen, has not been recorded or published, and was not known to the author of the most recent work on brooches of this type (J Hines, A New Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Great Square-headed Brooches, Woodbridge, 1997). It belongs to Hines' Group I, but has no exact parallel among others of this class, though it shares a number of stylistic elements with three or four of them. The closest overall to it are brooches from Alfriston (Sussex), grave 28, and Chessell Down, grave 60 (I.o.W.), but both of these are smaller. Indeed the new brooch is one of the largest in the known Corpus - out of c 187 reasonably complete brooches illustrated by Hines, only fourteen - 7.5 % - are larger.
10. The brooch measures 15.7 cm in length.
Client ref 107/06
GNN ref 136283P