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Fragmentary Bracelet with Medallion of Emperor in a Chariot

Early Byzantine
6th century
3.8 x 8.9 x 10.8 cm (1 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 4 1/4 in.)

On view


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Bracelets of this kind, comprised of a semicircular band completed by a geometric shape, usually a circle, attached to the band by a clasp on one side and a hinge on the other were fashionable in fifth- and sixth-century Rome. The bands were decorated with opus interasile (openwork cuts), enamel, or, as in this case, with repoussé vine scrolls. The circular opening portion, also in repoussé, depicts an emperor, facing frontally, celebrating a triumph in a chariot drawn by six horses. In his left hand he holds a globe, representing the cosmos, which is topped by a nike (winged victory). There are two other nikes at either side, leading the horses. At the bottom, there are palm fronds and a measuring basket, both symbols of victory. The imagery, combined with the circular format, makes the clasp into a sort of pseudo-medallion.
The setting of real coins in jewelry was a widespread practice in ancient times. Such pieces advertised the wealth of the wearer and at the same time suggested loyalty to the imperial figures portrayed on the coins. (See, for example, the Constantinian pendants— accession no. BZ.1970.37 and BZ.1975.6—or the Herakleian bracelets--BZ.1938.64-65).

This piece is part of a small gold treasure said to have been found in Latakia, Syria. It includes two other pieces, one the medallion portion of the mate to this bracelet (accession no. BZ.1950.38), and the other a belt buckle (BZ.1950.36).

- J. Hanson

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 76, no. 172.2, pl. p. 90.

É. Coche de la Ferté, L'Antiquité Chrétienne au Musée du Louvre (Paris, 1958), 106.

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), 4-6, no. 2B, pl. VI.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 44, no. 155B, pl. 155.

C. LePage, "Les bracelets de luxe romains et byzantins du IIe au VIe siècle: Étude de la forme et de la structure," Cahiers archéologiques 21 (1971): 1-23, esp. 19-20, fig. 32.

S. A. Boyd and G. Vikan, Questions of Authenticity among the Arts of Byzantium, exhibition catalogue, Dumbarton Oaks, January 7-May 11, 1981, Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection Publications 3 (Washington, D.C., 1981), 11.

Byzance: l'art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises, exhibition catalogue, Musée du Louvre, 3 November 1992-1 February 1993, (Paris, 1992), 135.

A. Yeroulanou, "Important Bracelets in Early Christian and Byzantine Art," in Intelligible Beauty: Recent Research on Byzantine Jewellery, ed. C. Entwistle and N. Adams (London: Oakville, CT, 2010), 40-49, esp. 46, pl. 21a.

Acquisition History
Said to have been found at Latakia, Syria in 1948.

Purchased from Elie Bustros, Beirut by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, September 14, 1950.

Gift of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss to Dumbarton oaks Research Library and Collection, September 1950.

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