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Gold Bracteate


This fine gold pendant, known as a brakteat, exhibits a dexterous and energetic design defined by bold, sweeping lines. The central facet exemplifies the exuberant, highly restrained style of early medieval Scandinavian artists. The border zone, formed by intricate and orderly rows of repeating perforations, testifies to the high technical skill of the jewelers who worked in Northern Europe in the fifth and sixth centuries.

The manufacture of brakteats probably has its origins in Roman and Byzantine portrait medallions presented by the emperor as gifts to important persons. Here, however, the imperial image has been transformed into an image of a god, possibly Odin, the leader of the Scandinavian pantheon; his huge face is balanced on a galloping horse with horns. Through fine workmanship and allusions to the Roman and Byzantine worlds, the gold brakteats conveyed the refined taste and high social status of their owners, who wore them as exquisite jewelry and stored them as treasures.