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20.05.2021

Brooch in Form of a Bird of Prey

The head and right leg of this elegant brooch bird are depicted in left profile, while its rounded body and fluttering tail are presented frontally. The elongated right wing curves behind the tail. The edges of the neck, wings and tail, as well as the upper part of the leg are outlined with a pseudobuspin. Nine stamped (embossed?) crayfish adorn the tail. The position of the head, supported by a raised foot, indicates that the bird is sleeping.

The brooch is thought to have come from a Scandinavian collection before it was sold in London. In fact, it is more or less comparable in form to saddle mounts from Wallstenarum (now in the Statens Historiska Museet, Stockholm) in the Vendel style (550-800)-named after objects excavated at a royal site in Sweden-and to shield mounts from the Sutton Hoo ship burial, now in the British Museum. While the stamped decoration consisting of crayfish is unique as far as this author knows, stamped geometric decoration is found on the tails of birds of prey on openwork discs from Germany and on an example of a fibula or mount from Canterbury, now in the Vitoria and Albert Museum, London. However, the high relief of the eye and the sharply curved, cap-like eyebrow and beak characteristic of the bird from the Metropolitan Museum are typical Wendelian features and seem to allow us to tentatively attribute the bird to Scandinavia and date it to around 600.

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