Monday, January 18, 2010

Article on Eleventh Century Brooches

During a somewhat random search, I turned up the following article about 11th century cloisonné brooches found in England: Buckton, David. "Late 10th- and 11th-century cloisonné enamel brooches," Medieval Archaeology, vol. 30, pp. 8-18 (1986). A copy is available for free download here.

The brooches Mr. Buckton discusses and describes in the article are all very similar. They are small round copper brooches, each about 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter, and they are decorated with enamel in a number of variations of quadrefoil and cross designs, done primarily in dark blue, light blue, light green, and white translucent enamels.   One of Mr. Buckton's sketches, showing several of the designs found on the English brooches is reproduced to the right of this paragraph. His conclusion about the origin of the designs and the design style in particular caught my attention:
The upsurge of enamelling represented by the English finds, unless it is to be regarded as an isolated phenomenon, has to be seen in the context of what was happening elsewhere. There was a hiatus in enamel production in continental Europe between the 860s and the 960s or 970s, and the subsequent renascence in the reigns of the first two German emperors, with their dynastic ties to Byzantium (and, incidentally, to England), saw the production of a great quantity of high-quality cloisonné enamel, under strong Byzantine influence and, probably, using Byzantine raw materials--imported gold solidi and glass mosaic tesserae. (Page 15) (emphasis mine).
Mr. Buckton goes on to suggest that not only were the material of the brooches suggestive of Byzantine influence--the motifs on the brooches were as well:
While rosette and other flower patterns are notoriously difficult to pin down, the double step motif found in the cloisonné enamel [brooch] from Dunstable and, in a less precise form, in the centrepiece of the brooch from Kent and in the fragment from Billingsgate* is practically a Leitmotiv of Middle Byzantine or Ottonian cloisonné enamel, starting with the reliquary of the True Cross made in Constantinople, probably between 973 and 982, the cathedral treasury at Essen.** Even though the motif had a longer tradition in other media, its appearance in English cloisonné enamel is difficult to relate to anything other than Byzantine or Ottonian enamel of the last third of the 10th century and the first half of the 11th. (Page 16) (emphasis mine)
These comments caught my eye because they suggest that similar brooches, bearing similar enameled motifs, were also available in Byzantium during the late 10th-early 11th centuries. Granted, that fact would not answer my question about the most appropriate brooch style to wear with my mantion (since the English enameled brooches are all too small to hold a heavy cloak). But it does suggest possible design motifs for such a brooch. And it makes me more interested in obtaining a copy of Intelligible Beauty and see whether it references similar brooch motifs.

EDIT (Feb. 5, 2012):  I have learned from a reader that the Archaeology Data Service link above to the article no longer works.  If I can find a new link to the article that is free I will replace the link above.

EDIT:  It is still possible to get the article online from Archaeology Data Service. Follow this link; it will take you to a page where they will ask you to accept their terms of use. After you do, it will take you to their index page, where you can select the volume of Medieval Archaeology from 1-50 that you want, and ultimately the article.

* The Dunstable and Billingsgate designs referred to in this quote are, I believe, numbers 13 and 14 in the illustration that appears with this post.

** I think this is a picture of the True Cross reliquary to which Buckton referred. Unfortunately, the photograph does not show the enameled panel near the foot of the cross (which has a similar color scheme to the one Buckton describes in the English brooch finds) very well.


  1. Hi Cathy, nice blog. I am after a copy of Buckton's paper but it is no longer available online. Any chance you could send me a copy ?
    My pages at
    Mail is netvikeathotmaildotcom

  2. Chris, I'd be happy to help--assuming I can find my copy! The PDF I had does not seem to be on my computer anymore. I still should have a hard copy, but it will take time to locate it. I'll see what I can do.