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Disc brooch

School/style: Trewhiddle style

Cultures/periods: Late Anglo-Saxon

Production date: 9thC(late)

Made in: Europe: British Isles

Materials: silver; niello

A circular brooch of forged sheet metal, slightly convex in cross-section. It is richly inlaid with niello and has an openwork outer zone surrounding a central circle that is framed and divided by a wide felted border into a central rhombus surrounded by four additional lentil fields. Four points of intersection of these fields contain bosses and a fifth in the center; three of these conceal the rivets attaching the (lost) pin mechanism.
The decorative scheme consists of personifications of the five senses in a central circle surrounded by an openwork zone of smaller circles containing alternating geometric motifs of animals and humans, symbolizing various aspects of Creation in a not entirely symmetrical arrangement.
The large central field is occupied by the three-quarter height personification of Sight with large oval eyes. In each hand he holds a drooping foliate spray with double jagged details; above his head is a three-stepped leaf, and on either side of it are triquetras. Dots of lozenges, each with a domed rivet, touch the border of the circular field, forming four lenticular panels, each depicting a full-length human figure representing one of the other senses. They are dressed in short jackets and belted tunics. The remaining background space is filled with various foliage swirls or weaves.
The upper left corner shows Taste holding a mouth with one hand and a leafy stem with the other, while the profiled Smell in the upper right corner is surrounded by two plants and holds his hands behind his back. The sense of touch, in the lower right corner, has his hands folded together, while Hearing, in the lower left corner, seems to be running and has his hand to his ear. Everything is arranged on an inky base. The back side is plain, and the pin mechanism is now missing. The two small holes in the top may have served for hanging.