Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Intelligible Beauty

The copy of Intelligible Beauty:  Recent Research Into Byzantine Jewelry that I ordered came today.  

As advertised, it contains a number of essays on issues relating to Byzantine jewelry.  Happily, most of the essays are illustrated with a wealth of excellent, color photographs.  The articles appear mostly to be split between Early Byzantine and Middle Byzantine topics, though there is at least one that discusses Late Byzantine artifacts.

I have not had time to sit down and concentrate on reading any of the essays as yet, but I have paged through the book several times, looking for pictures of brooches.  There are surprisingly few.  There are dozens of pictures of rings (mostly gold ones, some with jewels), earrings (mostly gold, with enamel and sometimes pearls), bracelets (mostly gold, with elaborate openwork), buckles and belt ends (some gold, but others of humble copper alloys), and temple rings (a form of ornament favored by the Rus). But pictures of brooches are rare.  I have only seen pictures of a few gold brooches in the book.  On the other hand, all of the brooches are circular, with a central gem or boss and ornaments spaced symmetrically around the edge--like the image of Christ's ancestor by the Winchester scribe, or the brooch from Raymond's Quiet Press. 

I am not sorry that I purchased the book, even though it may not be as useful as I had hoped in determining suitable brooch designs for a wealthy Middle Byzantine era peasant.  It contains many lovely photographs of interesting jewels that I had never seen before, and discusses jewelry trends from different areas of the Empire:, such as Sicily, Africa, the lands of the Rus.  And as I read, I probably will discover at least a few topics interesting enough to discuss in this blog.

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