Friday, June 21, 2013

More Byzantine Jewelry

Just the other day, I learned about another book on Byzantine jewelry:
Spier, Jeffrey. Byzantium and the West: Jewelry in the First Millennium. Paul Holberton Publishing; 1st edition (November 2012).
This book is an exhibition catalog from a private, high-end gallery in New York City, Les Enluminures, which is owned by Sandra Hindman.  Ms. Hindman wrote the preface to the book. Les Enluminures also displays images of the artifacts it displays on line at its website (see the link in the last sentence) and by video. Two videos narrated by Hindman which display jewelry from the exhibition may be viewed above and below.   The book itself, though expensive in hard copy, can be viewed or downloaded for free from the Les Enluminures website.  (In addition, author Jeffrey Spier has downloaded a copy of the book onto; if you are a member of that site, you can read or download a copy of it there.  If you seek out Spier's works on, do not miss his articles on later-period medieval jewelry.)

Byzantium and the West lacks the kind of in-depth scholarship found in the British Museum's publication Intelligible Beauty. However, it makes up for that fact by containing plenty of large, clear, color photographs of the jewels discussed and by clear text that gives a lay reader a better idea of the context in which the jewels were created and worn.  It is especially good at reminding the reader that "Byzantine" fashion influenced all of Europe and that it can be difficult to distinguish "Byzantine" fashion from what wealthy people living west of the lands held by that Empire were wearing during the same time periods.

The Byzantium exhibition catalogued in Byzantium and the West features pieces from approximately the 3rd through the 7th centuries C.E., with the primary emphasis placed on the 6th and 7th centuries.  With one exception (an approximately 1.5 inch or 39 mm circular gold brooch set with glass stones and covered in filigree), none of those pieces are brooches; most of them are rings.   Moreover, Spier's writings on later-period jewels concentrate on rings and amulets, not on brooches.  Perhaps that's not surprising.  For all I know, most of the brooches that would be relevant to the wealthy Middle Byzantine peasant costume I hope to recreate are in museums in Turkey that don't publish archaeological reports in English and that I will never get to visit in person.  At any rate, I will have to continue looking for information on brooches as I work on my himation.

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