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Plaques from a girdle

  • Place of origin:

    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1300 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, silver gilt, engraved

  • Museum number:

    M.12PART-1981

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 6, shelf C, box 8 []

The belts or girdles worn around the waist by men and by women throughout the medieval period were generally made of leather or textile with a metal buckle. For wealthy owners, the belt may have been embellished with an ornate buckle, decorative metal plaques and ornaments attached along the lenght of the belt, and an ornate metal 'chape' or belt end. These three plaques show typical scenes from a medieval courtly romance, depicting knights, musicians and ladies of the court. They were originally enamelled with polychrome translucent enamel which would have provided a brilliant and stylish effect.

Physical description

Three plaques from a girdle, silver, silver gilt, engraved. The base plates of all three plaques have suffered some damage and all the original translucent enamel is lost. Each plaque is slightly curved and all are hollow, with sides and baseplates separately made. In the back plate of each are cut two tau-cross-shaped apertures.Tthe scenes are chased and engraved, and now appear slightly sunk because of the loss of translucent enamel.

Plaque I. A hinge on the left, held by a double-headed pin running through a hoop at base and top and a central cylindrical roll that turns on it. This roll is roughly grooved on the left-hand side. The right side is pierced by three stud-head nails, which held a hinge, now missing. These two ends are gilt. The scene comprises a rough rocky stretch of ground on which two knights on horseback are in rencounter. They wear surcoats, caps of mail, and plate greaves over mail and carry kite-shaped shields which have engraved borders. The knight on the left points his lance at the horse in front; the other turns back his head and looks at his lance which he holds point downwards. A stylized flower top right.

Plaque II. The left end terminates in a cylilndrical roll; the right is pierced with three holes for a hinge, not separately constructed as in Plaque I, but separately made and with a tongue pierced with holes fitting into the open right end of the plaque. Presumably this was originally held by three nails. This construction allows the cylindrical end of the hinge to turn. Again the ends are gilt. The scene comprises on the right, on a low throne without a back whose ends are formed by two couchant lions, sits a queen dressed in a long robe, with bare loose tresses. Behind, to the right, are two stylised rosettes. She holds a crested helm - the crest has a fantastic animal form, of a horse or dog with a comb - which she is handing to a knight who kneels before her. He wears a pointed cap of mail, a surcoat over mail, knee-caps and a sword. To the left, seated on a low seat, a lady holds a lance and a shield with the device of a human head, possibly signifying the sun.

Plaque III. Both ends are open and gilt, and there is no trace of piercing for hinges. The scene comprises four crocketed canopies resting on found pillars with foliate capitals, figuring a royal hall. The triangular spandrels are filled with flowers and leaves shaped as half-quatrefoils. Under the extreme right canopy sits a king, holding a fleur-de-lis sceptre in his left hand and with right hand raised, as a youth under the adjoining canopy plays a harp (or zither). In the next canopy left sits a queen, also holding a fleur-de-lis sceptre in her left hand and with right hand pressed to her breast as she listens pensively to a youth playing a viol. All four figures wear long robes; in addition the queen wears a mantle.

Place of Origin

France (possibly, made)

Date

ca. 1300 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver, silver gilt, engraved

Descriptive line

Plaques from a girdle, silver, silver-gilt, depicting scenes from an unknown Romance, possibly France, ca. 1300.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Lightbown, Ronald. Medieval European Jewellery: with a catalogue of the collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum,London, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1992. cat.75, pp.521-2.
Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, pp.68,70, figs.67, 71

Materials

Silver; Gold

Techniques

Engraving; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Knight; Music; Chivalry; Horse

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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