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Work Temple pendant

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Pendant de tempe

© 1999 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

The richness and originality of the decoration of this electrum pendant reflects the wealth of Rhodes and the skill of eastern Greek goldsmiths in the 7th century BC, at the crossroads of the Greek and Oriental civilizations. The decorations are typical of the period of Oriental influence, with plant motifs and a bestiary of real and mythological creatures, including a lion, an eagle, and griffins. The two smaller pendants hanging from the main pendant are decorated with dedalic-type heads.

Rhodes: a major Mediterranean trading center during the period of Oriental influence

Greek goldsmith work flourished in the 7th century BC, both in terms of the richness of the shapes and the elegance of the decoration. The major production centers were now the islands, particularly Rhodes. This pendant was found in the Kamiros necropolis on Rhodes. Archeological excavations in the second half of the 19th century uncovered large quantities of luxury objects, many made of precious metals for the local aristocracy. The finds indicate the economic prosperity enjoyed by the inhabitants of Rhodes from the mid-7th century BC onwards. Rhodes, a large island in the southeast Aegean Sea, was at the crossroads of the maritime trading routes between East and West, and was one of the major trading centers, along with Cyprus. The island's prominence as a trading center meant that local goldsmiths were familiar with of the decorative objects produced in the Orient, including new techniques and styles. The electrum used to make this piece of jewelry is a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, which was also used at around the same time to produce the earliest Greek and Lydian coinage. This indicates the richness of the eastern reaches of the Greek empire during the period of Oriental influence.

The Oriental influence in decoration

The decoration on this piece of jewelry is extremely original and elaborate, combining two favorite themes of the period - plant motifs and a bestiary of both real and mythological animals. The composition is a combination of an Egyptian theme and the Aegean style. The main rectangular pendant depicts a lion hunting an eagle, framed by rosettes and griffin protomai. This scene is typically Oriental in style. Three smaller pendants hang from the main piece. The central one is in the shape of a thistle, while the two others end with pomegranate shapes and are decorated with heads showing two Janus-like female faces. The style of these heads, known as "dedalic," is similar to that of the Lady of Auxerre (Ma 3098). This comparison makes it possible to date the pendant to around 630-620 BC.

Goldsmith work in eastern Greece

The original function of this pendant remains a mystery. Was it designed to be worn at the temples, on the chest, or as part of a belt? Whatever the case might be, it reveals the technical mastery of the eastern Greek goldsmiths in the 7th century BC, at the crossroads of the Egyptian, Levantine, and Anatolian civilizations. The goldsmiths of Rhodes skillfully used techniques that originated in the Orient, such as filigree, which is used here around the border of the plaque to create extremely delicate patterns. The goldsmith has also used granulation to pick out details such as the lion's mane, the bird's feathers, and the hair of the dedalic heads. He has placed the tiny beads of gold to play with effects of light and shade and texture.

Bibliography

Coche de la Ferté Etienne, Les Bijoux Antiques, Paris, PUF, 1955,
pp. 55-56, pl. 13.
Greek art of the Aegean islands : an exhibition at the Metropolitan museum of art, cat. exp. Metropolitan museum of art, 1er novembre 1979-10 février 1980, avec la collaboration du musée du Louvre, New York, 1979,
pp. 156-157, n 106.
Laffineur Robert, L'Orfèvrerie rhodienne orientalisante, Athènes, École française d'Athènes ; Paris, diffusion de Boccard, 1978, coll. "Travaux et mémoires - École française d'Athènes, 21", 1978, p. 127 et p. 230, n 199, pl. 23 et pl. 3.
Mer Égée, Grèce des îles, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre,
26 avril-3 septembre, exposition organisée par l'Association française d'action artistique, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1979, pp. 149-150, n 89.

Technical description

  • Pendant de tempe

    Vers 630 - 620 avant J.-C.

    Rhodes : nécropole de Camiros

  • Electrum

    H. : 8,50 cm.

  • Fouilles A. Salzmann, acquisition 1863 , 1863

    Bj 2169 (10)

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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