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Pair of Earrings with Pearls, Sapphires, and Gold Globules

Early Byzantine
early 5th century
7 cm (2 3/4 in.)
gold and gems

Not on view


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Below the ring there is a cabochon setting for a garnet, below which hangs a pearl (missing on BZ.1952.7.2), a ring of gold globules, a pear-shaped sapphire, and a second ring of gold globules.

These earrings belonged in modern times to Belle da Costa Greene, librarian of the J.P. Morgan Library in New York, and an antiquarian of wide influence. They form 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

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 75, no. 165.9.

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), 1-4, no. 1.I, pl. IV 1.I.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 43-44, no. 154.I.

A. Lipinsky, "Il Tesoro di Piazza della Consolazione," L'Urbe: revista romana di storia, arte, lettere, costumanze 36 (1973): 9-24, esp. 14, no. VI, fig. 6.

A.-M. Manière-Lévêque, "L'évolution des bijoux "aristocratiques" féminins à travers les trésors proto-byzantins d'orfêverie," Revue archéologique (1997): 79-106, esp. 82-83, pl. 2.E.

I. Baldini Lippolis, L'oreficeria nell'impero di Costantinopoli tra IV e VII secolo, Bibliotheca archaeologica 7 (Bari, 1999), 34-35, 90, no. 2.II.4.a.2.

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

Collection of Belle da Costa Greene

Purchased from the Pierpont Morgan Library by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, March 1952.

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