A Byzantine gold reliquary necklace
Lot 267*
A Byzantine gold and pearl reliquary necklace
£40,000 - 60,000
US$ 67,000 - 100,000
Auction Details
A Byzantine gold reliquary necklace
Lot Details
A Byzantine gold and pearl reliquary necklace
Circa 6th-8th Century A.D.
The amuletic gold pendant of circular bezel form, the front open with a thin ribbed gold frame and an inner circular green glass mount for a central steatite disc, now loose, incised with an image of the Virgin and Child, inlaid with niello and enamel, the reverse of the pendant in sheet gold depicting a standing figure of a Saint in relief, both sides surrounded by a granulated border, the bezel ringed with thirty-one miniature pearls strung on gold wire, secured by four rings, the top ring attached to a larger loop, for suspension from the thick gold plaited chain, each end of the chain attached to a sheet gold disc with a granulated border, 1¼in (3.2cm) diam of pendant; 18½in (47cm) length of chain


  • Provenance:
    Ex British private collection, acquired before 1978.

    These pendants would have had a clear glass or rock crystal covering over the open side and contained relics such as a piece of the 'True Cross'. Cf. J. Spier, 'A Byzantine Pendant in the J. Paul Getty Museum', The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, vol.15 (1987), pp.5-14.

    The inlaid steatite is unusual. Similar iconography and the use of niello and enamel inlay can be seen on reliquary crosses and rings from 6th-9th Centuries, cf. R. Cormack & M. Vassilaki (eds.), Byzantium 330-1453, (Royal Academy of Arts, London 2008), figs.53 & 147. However steatite was employed for stamp seals in the Byzantine period, depicting similar inlaid images of Saints and the Holy Family. Later pendants also use steatite to represent Christ, cf. 12th Century ruby and pearl example in the Louvre, (OA 10910), and the 13th Century steatite cameo of Christ in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (1987.23).
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