Skip to Content

Two Decorative Pins Connected by a Chain

Early Byzantine
early 5th century
17.7 cm (6 15/16 in.)
gold and gems

On view


Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image Full view
Full view

The pin-heads are in gold with a fragment of a pin in another metal at the lower end. The heads are dome-shaped: at the top is a pearl on four arches (the pearls is missing on one), and below this is a flattened globe set with garnets. The two pieces of chain uniting the pin-heads are composed of alternate strands of twisted wire and links of twisted wire, set with natural crystals of emeralds. The clasp consists of two dart-shaped pieces of flat gold with a wire at the back twisted at the ends. The function of this piece is not entirely clear. It has been suggested that it may have been made to adorn a hairstyle, rather than clothing.

This piece 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.

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. 1D, pl. V.

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).

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