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Necklace with Pendant of Aphrodite Anadyomene

Early Byzantine
early 7th century
43.2 x 20.3 x 1.9 cm (17 x 8 x 3/4 in.)
gold and lapis lazuli

On view


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Additional Image Chain and pendant
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Detail, pendant
Additional Image Detail, pendant
Detail, pendant

Standing in a blue shell, Aphrodite Anadyomene wrings seawater from her hair. The pose was well known in antiquity, referring to the goddess’s birth from the sea, of which the deep blue color of the lapis lazuli is a visual metaphor. The harmony of references—pose, shell, deep blue color, and the sea pearls on the short chains—displays the jeweler’s ability to adapt a venerated mythological image to the luxury materials of elite taste during the early Byzantine period.

The delight and fascination with exquisitely crafted jewelry were undiminished at the end of late antiquity, and the appreciation of Greco-Roman mythology, even the most lascivious of all its goddesses, continued well after the Byzantine Empire had become an officially Christian society. Aphrodite’s fame as the goddess of beauty and physical desire are expressed by her seminudity and enhanced through the precious gold, lapis lazuli, and pearls of the necklace. Yet it might have been a magical property of the image that accounted for the figure’s allure. Amulets and charms, whether costly or cheap, had been worn for centuries as effective means of personal protection or for controlling the actions or emotions of other people. This elegant necklace may have been such an amulet (apotropaion), either against pervasive malevolent spirits or as a charm to grant an erotic wish.

S. Zwirn

Exposition internationale d'art Byzantin, exh. cat., Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, 28 May-9 July 1931 (Paris, 1931), 116, no. 339.

H. Peirce and R. Tyler, L'Art byzantin, Vol. 2 (Paris, 1932-34), 119, pl. 154b.

W. F. Volbach, G. Duthuit, and G. Salles, Art byzantin (Paris, 1933), 57, pl. 49, E.

L. Bréhier, La sculpture et les arts mineurs byzantins (Paris, 1936), pl. 73.1.

Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 10.4 (Dec. 1945): 108, fig. p.118.

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University, Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 60, no. 117.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 78-79, fig. p. 88.

M. C. Ross, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Vol. 2, Jewelry, Enamels, and Art of the Migration Period (Washington, D.C., 1965; 2nd ed. with Addendum by S.A. Boyd and S. R. Zwirn, 2005), 18-19, no. 12, pl. 20, color pl. C.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 48, no. 168.

A. Badawy, Coptic Art and Archaeology : the Art of the Christian Egyptians from the Late Antique to the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1978), 333.

K. Weitzmann, ed., Age of Spirituality : Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 19, 1977-February 12, 1978 (New York, 1979), 313-314, no. 288.

K. R. Brown, The Gold Breast Chain from the Early Byzantine Period in the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (Monographien / Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Forschungsinstitut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, 4), (Mainz and Bonn, 1984), 7, fig. 4, 5.

C. Mango, "The Byzantine Collection," Apollo 119 (1984): 21-29, fig. 7.

Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae 2.1 (Zürich, 1984), s.v. "Aphrodite," 158, no. 89.

I. Kalavrezou, ed., Byzantine Women and their World, exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass. and New Haven, 2003), 18, fig. 3 (not in exhibition).

N. Metallinos, ed., Byzantium: The Guardian of Hellenism (Montreal, 2004), 115, fig. 4 (Aphrodite pendant).

G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 118, pl. p. 119.

A. D. Lazaridou, A. Cameron, H. Saradi-Mendelovici, H. Maguire, and S. Curcic, Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD, exhibition catalogue, Mouseio Vyzantino, Athens, December 7th, 2011- May 14th 2012, (New York and Athens, 2011), 45, fig. 4.

J. C. Long, "The Survival and Reception of the Classical Nude: Venus in the Middle Ages," in The Meanings of Nudity in Medieval Art ed. S.C.M. Lindquist (Farnham, Surrey, UK, England; Burlington, VT, 2012), xx, 354 p., [8] p. of plates, esp. 51, fig. 1.3.

H. C. Evans and B. Ratliff, eds., Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century. Metropolitan Museum of Art ed. (New York and New Haven [Conn.], 2012), 193, no. 133.

C. Cadau, Studies in Colluthus' Abduction of Helen, Mnemosyne Supplements 380, ed. D. Bright, S. McGill and J. Pucci (Leiden; Boston, 2015), 103, fig. 1-2.

Exhibition History
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, "Exposition d'art byzantin," May 28 - July 9, 1931.

Cambridge, MA, Fogg Art Museum, "A Selection of Ivories, Bronzes, Metalwork and Other Objects from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection," Nov. 15 - Dec. 31, 1945.

New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century," Nov. 19, 1977 - Feb. 12, 1978.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Kalebdjian, Paris by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 1928.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 1928-1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.

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