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Work Diadem

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Diadem

© 2001 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The necropolis in Canosa has provided splendid examples of the refinement of women's jewelry in the Hellenistic period. This diadem features exuberant, richly inventive decoration typical of the floral style developed by Greek goldsmiths in southern Italy, especially Taranto, in the 3rd century BC. Palmettes, rosettes, and intertwining foliage form a tracery in gold and enamel, worthy of the finest lace. The piece is dotted with tiny colored glass beads.

A piece of women's jewelry

The diadem is one of the oldest and most characteristic items of women's jewelry in the Greek world. Unlike coronets or wreaths, which were used by men as signs of political or social status, and as funerary objects, the diadem was worn by women only, often serving a purely decorative purpose. Numerous examples in gold have been found in necropolises in southern Italy, Macedonia, and on the Black Sea coast, testifying to the great refinement of Greek jewelry-making during the Hellenistic period, and to the widespread diffusion of decorative motifs throughout the Mediterranean basin. This example is from Canosa, in Apulia (southern Italy), where it was probably found in one of the Lacrasta tombs. It entered the Louvre in 1863 after Napoleon III purchased the collection of the marquis of Campana.

Exuberant flowers and foliage

The diadem's decoration is extraordinarily inventive and technically accomplished, comprising an openwork tracery of luxuriant stems dotted with palmettes, rosettes, foliage, and a variety of flowers. The motifs are intertwined like fine lace, highlighted with gold filigree work, blue enamel, and berries made from green, white, and blue pâte de verre. The piece is clearly the work of a Greek goldsmith influenced by Oriental styles and jewelry created for the royal court of Macedonia in the 4th century BC. The diadem is typical of the naturalistic decorative style seen in northern Greek jewelry and precious metalwork from 375-350 BC.

Hellenistic jewelry and metalwork in southern Italy

The diadem was made during the Hellenistic period, in the 3rd century BC, by a goldsmith active at Canosa in southern Italy, or possibly a workshop in Taranto. Greek metalworking flourished in Apulia during this period; women's jewelry based on northern Greek designs using abundant flowers and foliage was especially popular. Items made in Taranto were exported throughout the surrounding region, as well as to Campania and Etruria. The innovative workshops of Taranto pioneered the reduction of the base plate to a plain background, focusing our attention solely on the scrolling, openwork design.

Technical description

  • Diadem

    3rd century BC

    Canosa, southern Italy

    Southern Italy, Canosa or Taranto

  • Hammering, riveting, soldering, inlay, filigreeGold, glass, enamel

    H. 2.8 cm; L. 51 cm; Diam. 20 cm

  • Purchased from the former Campana collection, 1861

    N° usuel Bj 106

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Venus de Milo gallery
    Room 10

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