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Necklace with Pearls, Emerald Plasma, and Sapphires

Early Byzantine
early 5th century
37 cm (14 9/16 in.)
gold and gems

On view


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Additional Image With earrings (BZ.1928.12a&b)
With earrings (BZ.1928.12a&b)

A necklace composed of links similar to those of BZ.1928.8, except that each pearl or stone is held in place by a gold bead on either side. Pearls alternate with cylindrical emerald beads and oval or tear-shaped sapphires. The clasps take the form of ivy leaves in an outline of gold, each with three small settings, one for a pearl and two for garnets or glass.

This necklace is part of the Piazza della Consolazione treasure, an extraordinary cache of late Roman jewelry said to have been uncovered in 1910 during restoration work on an old stable in the Piazza della Consolazione in Rome. Most of the objects from this cache are at Dumbarton Oaks, although some pieces also survive in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, (inv. 1958, 58.12; and inv. 17.190.2053) and in private collections. Hordes like this are often thought to have been buried quickly when the owners, threatened by an invasion, concealed valuables from the potential conquerors. Since all of this jewelry has been dated to the early 5th century on stylistic grounds, its burial has been hypothetically associated with Alaric the Visigoth’s siege of Rome in 410, but this is pure speculation. The 1910 find itself is not reliably documented, leaving room for suspicion that the story of the unearthing of the treasure may have been developed by a dealer.
J. Hanson

Collection Kalebdjian. Exposition de bijoux antiques (Paris, 1913), nos. 139-146.

Musée des arts décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Pavillon de Marsan, Exposition internationale d'art byzantin, 28 mai - 9 juillet 1931 (Paris, 1931), nos. 367-369, 371-374.

W.F. Volbach, G. Duthuit and G. Salles, Art Byzantin (Paris, 1933), pl. 49H.

Handbook of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, DC, 1955), no. 165.

M. Ross, Jewelry, Enamels and Art of the Migration Period, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Vol. II, (Washington, DC, 1965), no. 1B, pls. I, II.

Handbook of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, DC, 1967), no. 154.

A. Lipinski, "Il tesoro di piazza della Consolazione," L'Urbe, n.s., 36/2 (1973), 9-24 (copy in dossier).

R. Cormack, M. Vasilaki, and B. Mouseio, Byzantium, 330-1453, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, October 25, 2008 - March 22, 2009, (London: New York, 2008), 410.

C. L. Connor, Women of Byzantium (New Haven, 2004).

Exhibition History
Paris, Croix-Rouge Française, "Exposition d'Objets d'art du Moyen age et de la Renaissance…Ancien Hôtel de Sagan," 1913.

Paris, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, "Exposition d'art byzantin," 1931.

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

Acquisition History
Found in 1910 during restoration work in Piazza della Consolazione, Rome.

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

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

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, DC.