Fitzwilliam Museum. McClean Bequest.

Catalogue of the mediaeval ivories, enamels, jewellery, gems and miscellaneous objects bequeathed to the museum by Frank McClean online

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Online LibraryFitzwilliam Museum. McClean BequestCatalogue of the mediaeval ivories, enamels, jewellery, gems and miscellaneous objects bequeathed to the museum by Frank McClean → online text (page 1 of 14)
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C. F. CLAY, Manackr

u *[



Btrlin: A. ASHER AND CO.

1Lfip>ig: F. A. BROCKHAUS

i^tiu Sork: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

iSombaB Bnti ffalnittn : MACMILLAN AND CO.. Ltd.

All rights reservai










Cambridge :

at the University Press



Camiriirgf :



" I ""HE present catalogue, though limited in extent, is concerned

-^ with objects of a kind presenting peculiar difficulties ; I

cannot claim to have surmounted all of these or to have avoided

all the errors besetting the classification of similar works of art.

In the Introduction I have tried to summarize our present
knowledge, and to provide such references to the literature of each
subject as will enable the reader to consult original sources of

I wish to express my great indebtedness to Dr Montague James
and Mr S. C. Cockerell for kind assistance rendered at various
times during the preparation of the work, and in an especial
degree to Dr C. H. Read of the British Museum, who has
examined the collection with me and placed his wide knowledge
freely at my disposal. The descriptions of nos. io8 — 109 and of
the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian objects, nos. 119 — 143,
have been supplied by Mr F, W. Green, the Honorary Keeper
of the Egyptian Department in the Fitzwilliam Museum.

O. M. D.

British Museum,
191 1.



List of Plates






Jewellery and Engraved Gems


Ivory Carvings .....




Various Objects


Chinese and Japanese Objects


Egyptian Antiquities ....


Assyrian and Babylonian Antiquities


Index . .



I. Prehistoric and early Teutonic jewellery.

II. Gold brooch from Faversham ; 7th century. Prankish buckle ; 8th


III. Jutish and Frankish jewellery of the 7th and 8th centuries.

IV. Carved ivory panels; 6th century.

V. Carved ivory panel ; Carolingian, 9th century.

VI. Carved ivory panel ; Carolingian, 9th century, with photograph of

the companion panel at Frankfort.

VII. Carved ivory casket with intarsia ; 12th century.

VIII. Carved ivory panels; Byzantine, nth — 12th century.

rX. Carved ivory diptych ; French, 14th century.

X. Ivory carvings; French, 14th century.

XI. Carved ivory group; Spanish, i6th century.

XII. Roman enamel ; 3rd century.

XIII. Enamelled fragments ; Limoges, 12th century.

XIV. Enamelled end of a reliquary ; Limoges, 13th century.

XV. Enamelled panel from a bookcover ; Limoges, 13th century.

XVI. Enamelled plaques of a bookcover ; Limoges, 13th century.

XVII. Casket with embossed silver and enamels ; Rhenish, 12th century.

XVIII. Enamelled ciborium ; Limoges, 14th century.

XIX. Enamelled brass candlestick ; English, 17th century.

XX. Enamelled chalice ; Italian, late 14th century.

XXI. Painted enamel. The Adoration of the Magi; Limoges, i6th century.

XXII. Painted enamels ; Limoges, i6th century.

XXIII. Painted enamels; Limoges, 15th and i6th centuries.

XXIV. Enamelled ciborium ; Venetian, i6th century.
XXV. Painting under glass ; Italian, 14th century.

XXVI. Bronze censer; i6th century.

XXVII. Jade vases ; Chinese, iSth century.



That part of Mr McClean's Bequest described in this Cata-
logue, though not of great extent, is yet an acquisition of
exceptional importance to the University. It contains classes of
objects hitherto almost unrepresented in the Fitzwilliam Museum,
and rapidly growing so rare that the hope of acquiring them
through ordinary channels becomes every year more and more
remote. They are the things for which collectors most obstinately
compete ; they belong to a very restricted group, of which the
conspicuous members have been preserved for centuries in sacristies,
or have passed in recent times into great permanent collections.
The church treasuries, the museums, and the cabinets of wealthy
amateurs have between them almost exhausted the visible sources
of supply. The finer products of mediaeval handicraft, if they
appear at all in the sale-rooms, change hands upon terms which
would have seemed incredible to the collectors of fifty years ago.

There are many reasons why mediaeval objects should have thus
appreciated in value. Their total number is relatively small, and
is not likely to be increased by discovery : in this province great
surprises are improbable. The places where the more important
works of art are preserved are known ; even the typical examples
of no more than average merit have almost all emerged from
obscurity into positions of comparative prominence. It is not with
these things as with Egyptian, or classical, or barbaric antiquities,
the sum of which may at any moment be notably increased by the
discovery of new tombs or cemeteries. They belong to the
Christian epoch ; and Christianity, by abolishing the custom of
burying valuable possessions with the dead, deprived archaeolog)-
of a resource consistently available in the case of earlier j)eriods.

D. I


A few tombs of princes temporal or spiritual have preserved for us
the insignia which distinguished great personages during life ; but
these are the exceptions to an irrevocable sumptuary law a{)plied
not to the living but to the dead. Christian antiquities of small
proportions have therefore suffered more from the vicissitudes of
time than those of preceding ages : their brief existence has been
more exposed to the chances of destruction. Unprotected by con-
cealment in the earth from the demands of greed or necessity, not
always safe even within the walls of the sanctuary, they were
already a residue long before the days of the museum or the
collector. Such antiquities are, as Bacon has said, ''tanqnam tabula
iiaufragii, — scattered wreckage to be saved and recovered from the
deluge of time."

The perusal of mediaeval inventories makes it only too clear
that not a tithe of the treasures which once existed has survived to
excite the cupidity of our day. In the centuries before banking
works of art were realisable capital, and, if composed of precious
metals, were too often converted into money by the agency of the
melting-pot. Wars and revolutions, or outbreaks of religious
fanaticism, multiplied risks for all things of high intrinsic value ;
the indifference of the Renaissance for mediaeval art, and the
carelessness or ignorance of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, united to reduce yet further a long diminished total.
In our own country, where the Reformation made such devastating
inroads among the treasuries of the Church, the destruction was
even more complete than elsewhere ; and but for the fortunate
circumstance that England began to collect at a time when
opportunities for acquisition were still comparatively frequent, the
disproportion between our mediaeval collections and those of
France or Germany would be even greater than it is.

For these reasons alone Mr McClean's Bequest is of peculiar
importance. But in addition to these qualities of rarity and
intrinsic worth, it possesses an exceptional educative value. It
is not a collection gathered at random. The late owner wisely
concentrated his attention upon definite classes or groups; and
although the several series \yould undoubtedly have been increased
had he lived longer, while certain objects might have been with-
drawn, the groups remain sufficiently comprehensive to introduce


the student to the branches of art which they represent. The
importance of such collections is not exhausted by the artistic
pleasure which they convey ; it is also to be scnit^ht in their
power of exciting a reasonable curiosity, antl of acting as an
incentive to individual research. Even when they are of com-
paratively small extent, they may become the basis of a knowledge
which will not only increase the pleasure of continental travel, but
may serve a more serious purpose by enhancing the interest of
historical studies. Things made and possessed by the men of
whom we read in history are a visible commentary upon the
written text ; they lend an added touch of reality to the narrative ;
and when their genealogy can be traced back through a long
series of centuries, they help in their degree to quicken the
historical sense. It is remarkable how much the conception of a
remote period will gain in colour and relief from an acquaintance
at first hand with the products even of its least conspicuous arts.
If, for example, we know that the brooch (no. 4) is of a type worn
in Kent when Augustine began his mission, that enamels of the
kind represented by nos. 47 — 59 were common features of our
church-furniture from the reigns of John and of Henry III down
to the Reformation, that ivories like nos. 34 — 35 were carved in the
great monasteries of the Rhine in the time of Charlemagne and his
immediate successors, that the chalice (no. 61) is a typical product
of the goldsmiths' guild of mediaeval Siena, we do not merely feel
that a certain lustre of great association is reflected upon these
objects : there is something more than this. The times in which
they first saw the light have been brought a step nearer to us ;
they have received a new and more intimate significance. To say
so much is to repeat a commonplace ; but the repetition may be
justified on the ground that students who take full advantage of
concrete illustrations to history still constitute a rather small

If the enhancement thus lent to historical studies is to have
more than a temporary influence, the knowledge of ancient handi-
crafts must be as complete as we can make it. We should not
confine ourselves to the story of the industrial arts, their origin,
progress and decay; we should also learn something of the technical
processes by which their masterpieces were produced. A slight

I — 2


acquaintance with the practical side of goldsmiths' work or
enamelling increases many fold the appreciation of an ancient
jewel or reliquary : those who have tried and failed with the most
elaborate of modern appliances will entertain a greater respect
than the mere student of the library for the Anglo-Saxon jewellers
or the early enamcllers of Limoges, because they will have learned
to understand the difficulties which the ancient craftsmen had to
overcome. There are few who would not profit by a short
experience gained in a school of arts and crafts, and by the
practical familiarity with technical methods which such institutions
have it in their power to bestow. Unfortunately, the haste and
pressure of modern life leave scant time for this salutary alternation
of labour ; the interminable tasks imposed upon the brain tend to
exclude the training of the eye and hand. As things now are, it
is almost a counsel of perfection to serve even a light apprentice-
ship in the industrial arts and at the same time thoroughly to
master their history and affinities. Yet those responsible for
education would do well to bear in mind the wisdom of Ponocrates
who reliev^ed the labours of the schoolroom by carr)nng his pupil
abroad to visit the various workshops of mediaeval Paris.

In a short introduction like the present it is impossible to
attempt an adequate treatment, from the technical side, of the arts
here represented; it must suffice to follow their growth through the
centuries, and to bring before the reader's notice the range and
continuity of their development. But it is hoped that these
preliminary pages may prove of some service alike to the beginner
and to the student already in some degree familiar with the
subjects of which they treat. The information which they contain
is not original. But as it is in great part only to be found, at the
cost of much time and patience, in the pages of widely-scattered
publications, it may help to prevent unprofitable delays ; while the
numerous references to authorities should be useful to those who
desire to consult the primary sources. In what follows, the attempt
has been made to present the reader with the essential facts con-
cerning the more considerable groups in the Bequest, — the barbaric
jewellery, the ivory carvings, the enamels, and the paintings under


Barbaric fewellery

The barbaric jewellery includes examples ranging from the
Bronze Age to the later Frankish period (nos. i — ii). But the
remarkable Faversham brooch (no. 4) represents a well-defined
class with an ascertained history so instructive that we may profit-
ably follow its genealogy back as far as the evidence will permit.

This ornament ranks among the finest existing specimens of
that cloisonne jewellery which, as far as our country is concerned,
is characteristic of the county of Kent\ To the observer ignorant
of the rarity of invention in the arts of design, it would appear that
an object of this kind might result from a happy idea suggesting
itself spontaneously to a goldsmith of exceptional ability ; that it
might well be an isolated masterpiece of technical skill independent
of models and without a pedigree. It would be easy, he might
think, to arrange a few pieces of garnet or coloured glass in simple
patterns upon a gold surface ; there would be no need for any
dependence upon others in the conception of such elementary
motives ; the method of fixing the stones is an obvious method to
which anyone would have recourse. But the life-story of orna-
mental motives, like that of practical inventions, should inspire
distrust of this easy explanation. Artistic methods and designs
are only modified step by step, like the firearms and the locks of
which General Pitt-Rivers traced the gradual evolution. Originality
is seldom found, and what appears a novelty is often no more than
the reinvestment of an old inheritance. The decorative process
here so admirably illustrated is an excellent example of this slow
transmission from century to century and people to people. So far
from being original, it has perhaps descended through as great
a tract of time, and travelled over as wide a geographical area,

* The Victoria County History, Kent, Vol. I, p. 346. See also the same history,
Berkshire, Vol. I, p. 241. Coins of the period from Justinian to Heraclius have been
found in association with this kind of brooch, and the elaborate examples probably date
from about the year a.d. 600. Fine collections of Kentish antiquities, including cell-
work brooches, are to be seen in the British Museum, the Canterbury Museum, and the
Free Public Museums, Liverpool.


as ail)' other process with wliich we are famihar. Its story is
a classic instance of that universal tendency to repetition and
imitation which makes the appearance of fresh motives in decora-
tive art so rare. Convinced by experience that men seldom try to
create when they can conveniently borro^v, the archaeologist, con-
fronted with a process or a pattern wiiich is not childishly simple,
immediately searches for its antecedents, and following it back
along the course of its development, endeavours to discover the
distant sources to which it owes its distinctive character. He may
not always succeed in picking up the trail, but in almost every
case a trail exists; in the present instance it will carry the enquirer
into each of the three continents of the ancient world. It is worth
while to pursue so remarkable a course, and realise by an example
of almost classical precision, how difficult invention is, and how
persistently the most insignificant discovery lives on when once
it has been found to satisfy a general and popular taste.

French archaeologists have described as orfevrerie cloisonnee the
method of decorating personal ornaments by the use of coloured
stones or glass pastes, cut into the flat or " table " form, and set in
cells or cloisons so as to form continuous designs^ For this we
may conveniently substitute the general English term " inlaid
jewellery," rather than the more exact translation "cell-work
jewellery," because the French words fail to describe an allied
variety which we shall find existing side by side with cell-work
from the earliest times. Although in both cases the object of the
goldsmith was to produce a brilliant effect by bands or masses of
colour contrasting vividly with the gold of the setting, in the
second case he did not fix his stones in applied cloisons or cells,
but in apertures cut in the continuous gold plate. The distinction
is somewhat analogous to that between constructed tracery in
Gothic architecture and the earlier form for which the term "plate
tracery" has been suggested, the type in which the apertures are
cut through a solid panel of stone. This second kind of jewellery
may therefore be described as plate-inlay, and it will be under-
stood as included with the allied cell-work under the generic term
inlaid jewellery. It is perhaps not too venturesome to suppose

' Ch. de Linas, Les origincs de ro7-fivrerie cloisonna, 1877.


that, as in the case of the Gothic windows, the more deh'cate
variety was developed from the simpler, and that the two arc
essentially the same thini^, or rather, different expressions of a
single artistic effort. Such a development is perhaps confirmed
by the absence of this more primitive method in the Kentish
jewellery, which, as we shall now proceed to show, represents the
latest stage of a method originating in very distant countries at a
very remote period of time.

There can be no doubt that the art of inlaying jewellery in this
fashion spread across Europe from east to west through the agency
of the Goths and of the Franks, the former tribe playing far the
more important part in its dissemination. It is equally certain
that the early Teutonic inhabitants of Kent imported it from the
opposite shores of the Channel ; it may be well however to cite
a few prominent instances in order to mark the principal stages of
the journey. Among the classical examples from French soil are
the sword of Childeric in the Cabinet des Medailles at Paris, dis-
covered at Tournai in 1653^ the treasure of Pouan"^ in the Museum
at Troyes, historically associated with the great battle of Chalons
(Maurica) in A.D. 451 when the power of Attila was broken; the
chalice and paten of Gourdon in the Cote d'Or, discovered in 1845,
and now preserved with the sword of Childeric^ These objects
are closely related in technique to the celebrated votive crowns of
the Visigothic Kings found at Guarrazar in Spain, some now
at Madrid, others in the Musee de Cluny at Parish The crowns

^ J. Chiflet, Anasiasis Childerici Francorum regis iS;c., Antwerp, 1655; J. Labaite,
Histoire des arts induslriels, 2ricl ed., \'ol. i, pi. xxvi; F. Bock, Kleinodien des heiligen
Roinischen Reichs, pi. xlvi ; H. Havard, Histoire de V orjevrerie Sec, p. 60.

- Peigne Delacourt, Recherches stir le lieu de la batoille d'' Attila &c., i860; Gaussen,
Porlefaiille archeologique de la Champagne, pi. i; de Linas, Origines &c., HI, pi. i;
Venturi, Storia delP arte italiana, u, fig. 23, p. 25; Rohault de Fleury, La Messe,
Vol. IV, pi. 284.

•* Labarte, Histoire &c., 1st ed.. Album, pi. xxx ; de Linas, Origines, iii, pi. i;
Havard, //>iY(7/><? &c., p. 58. For Frankish brooches in this style, see Havard, pi. v;
Fairholt and Wright, Miscellanea Craphica (Londesborough Coll.), pi. xxix ; W. Frohuer,
Collections dii Chiiteatc de Goliichffio, pis. xiii and xiv.

•* Bock, Kleinodien &c., pi. xxxvii ; F. de Lasteyrie, Le tresor de Guarrazar, Paris,
i860 ; J- Amador de los Rios, El arte latino-barbaro en Espana, y laS coronas Vizigodas
de Guarrazar, Madrid, 1861 ; E. Molinier, Histoire des arts appliijtit's i) Pinditstrie,
torn. IV, Orfivrerie, p. 1 2 ; R. de Fleury, La 3/esse, \, pi. 389.


illustrate both methods of incrustation, the broad central bands being
decorated by plate-inlaying, while the suspended letters composing
the royal names Svinthila and Reccesvinth are ornamented with
stones set in applied cells after the more usual fashion. The
Spanish examples in their turn lead us back by an unmistakeable
path to the other inlaid jewels which the same Gothic nation left
behind it in the soil of Italy and Central Europe. We need only
mention here the fragments of inlaid gold armour found at Ravenna,
and associated with the name of the great Theodoric\ and the
inlaid gold book-cover at Monza, perhaps a gift of Gregory the
Great to the young Adaloald, and ultimately presented by Queen
Theodelinda to the Cathedral treasury, where it still exists-. This
admirable example of the goldsmith's art, though made in the
early Lombard period, is almost certainly, like the jewels of the
cemetery of Castel Trosino^ the work of Ostrogothic goldsmiths,
who had attained a degree of technical skill never equalled by
their Lombard successors. Still retracing the steps of the barbaric
tribes across Europe, we find in Germany such admirable examples
as the jewels discovered at Wittislingen, now at Munich^ ; and in
Hungary very numerous inlaid ornaments of Gothic origin^ From
Hungary we follow the Goths back to their first southern seats to
the north of the Black Sea. The famous treasure of Petrossa'' in
Roumania, ornamented, like the Guarrazar crowns, with both cell-
and plate-inlay, is held to have belonged to the Gothic King
Athanaric, who fled from the Huns in the third quarter of the
fourth century, and ended his days in Constantinople. This con-
nection with the tribe of Athanaric leads us directly to the Gothic
settlements in the south of Russia, where other examples of inlaid

1 Now in the Museo Civico at Ravenna. A. Venturi, Storia delV ai-te italiana, \\,
p. 27 ; E. Molinier, Orfevreriey p. 13.

^ Bock, Kleinodien Sec, pi. xxxv ; Venturi, Storia &c., 11, p. 97; Molinier,
Orjevrerie, p. Q; Labarte, Histoire &c., 2nd ed., I, pi. xxviii.

* Venturi, Storia &c., Vol. II, p. 46.

* Gazette archeologique, 1889, pis. v and vi. The jewels are in the Bavarian National

^ J. Hampel, Alterthiii/ter des friihen Mittclalters in Ungarn, Brunswick, 1905: see
index i'. vv. Graiiat, Glaspastcii ; A. Riegl, Spdtromische Kiinsti7idustrie in Oestcrreith-
Ungarn, pp. 72 fi.

'' A. Odobesco, Le Irtfsor de Pt'trossa; Archaeologia, LViii, p. 267, where other
references are given.


work have been found'. We thus reach the third centur)- of our
era, and the extreme h'mits of the European continent. It is safe
to conclude from so continuous a chain of evidence that the Goths,
coming southward from Scandinavia, where inlaid jewellery was
unknown, first learned this new method of ornament in the parts of
Russia about the Black Sea, and that they took it westward with
them across Europe, teaching it as they went to other Teutonic
peoples. They may even have taught it to the rare Roman
or Provincial Roman goldsmiths who employed it ; for where we
find the process employed in Roman jewellery, it is usually upon
the borders of the Empire where barbaric influence may be assumed.
We now have to ask the further question, from what quarter did
the Goths derive the knowledge of this migratory art ?

The answer is partly supplied by the Petrossa treasure itself,
partly by a most interesting gold buckle-plate from a girdle dis-
covered in 1870 at Wolfsheim near Mainz-. This object, which is
rectangular with a projection from one end, and thickly set with
table-garnets by the method of plate-inlaying, bears upon the
back, punched in early Pehlevi characters, the name Artashshater
(Ardeshir). In form and general appearance it differs from any
Teutonic jewel : it is clearly of an earlier date, and from another
country : even if it had borne no inscription, it could not have been
easily attributed to any part of Central or Northern Europe. The
sumptuous nature of the work suggests that the owner must
have been some person of high consequence ; the proposal of
von Cohausen to identify the xA.rdeshir here mentioned with the
first Sassanian King of that name (d. A.D. 238) is not so rash as it
might appear, for we shall see that the work is closely analogous

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Online LibraryFitzwilliam Museum. McClean BequestCatalogue of the mediaeval ivories, enamels, jewellery, gems and miscellaneous objects bequeathed to the museum by Frank McClean → online text (page 1 of 14)