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Girdle

  • Place of origin:

    Transylvania (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt set with garnets, turquoises and pastes, with painted enamel, on leather covered with gold brocade, dark red velvet and woven cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hildburgh

  • Museum number:

    M.18-1953

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Saxon community of Transylvania dates back to the 12th century, when they were encouraged to settle there to help defend the sparsely-populated area from attacks from the east. Over time they grew in prosperity, and always remained quite distinct from the local population, in law, language, religion and costume.

The marriage belt was one of the most visible and ostentatious signs of identity for women in this community. It was based on the kind of belt worn throughout Europe by the aristocracy in the late medieval period, with a series of richly jewelled studs set on a leather belt faced with velvet or brocade. Transylvanian women traditionally wore it wrapped two or three times round the waist, with the two decorative ends lying side by side at the front.

It is always difficult to date these belts, as the design changed little over time, and elements of older belts were often reused.

Physical description

Wide leather belt covered with velvet and brocade and decorated with silver-gilt appliqués and fittings set with turquoises, garnets and pastes. The belt is covered with a band of dark red velvet which is wrapped over the sides of the leather, leaving a bare band of leather on the back. The velvet on the back is then covered by a strip of cotton woven in bands of geometric patterns in red, blue, yellow and brown. The velvet on the front is covered by a band of gold brocade. Eight large cylindrical bosses are riveted to the belt along its length. Each of these bosses is made from a drum of gilded sheet silver which is covered with an elaborate overlay, pierced in floral patterns, which is decorated on the top with painted enamel petals, and set with three flat-cut garnets surrounding a large central red paste. There is a matching rosette round the base of the drum which is set with three turquoises alternating with three garnets (some missing). The two ends of the belt are each capped with a sheet of silver, cut in an ogival shape at each end, which is bent over the end, riveted to the leather, and hinged to two elaborate terminals. Each of the terminals has two parts, hinged together, made of sheet silver gilded on the outside, and covered with a pierced floral overlay which is screwed to the base. The overlay is set with garnets and turquoises. At the extreme end of each terminal is a hook, shaped like a dolphin, curving forward. One of these hooks forms a loop which holds a loose ring which hooks into the other to fasten the belt.

Place of Origin

Transylvania (made)

Date

1750-1870 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt set with garnets, turquoises and pastes, with painted enamel, on leather covered with gold brocade, dark red velvet and woven cotton

Marks and inscriptions

Illegible mark, possibly 'LD', in an oval frame.
Mark of unidentified maker.
On one side of the larger part of each end.

Head of Diana, with the number 4 beneath her chin, in a 5-sided frame.
Mark for 750 standard silver, large objects, 1867-1872.
On the other side of the larger part of each end, and on the side of the smaller part.

'HT' in rectangular frame
Mark of unidentified maker.
On one side of both parts of each end, next to the standard mark.

Dimensions

Height: 6 cm, Width: 38 cm, Depth: 35.5 cm

Descriptive line

Cloth-covered leather belt with large silver-gilt mounts and fittings set with garnets, turquoises and pastes, Transylvania (Romania), 1750-1870.

Production Note

18th century or 19th century

Materials

Silver-gilt; Paste (glass); Brocade; Garnet; Turquoise; Velvet; Cotton

Techniques

Enamelling

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Marriage

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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