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Celtic filigree from the seventh to the ninth century AD with particular reference to that on brooches

Whitfield, N; (1990) Celtic filigree from the seventh to the ninth century AD with particular reference to that on brooches. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to provide full descriptions, based on microscopic and other detailed examination and some experimentation, of the methods of manufacture and characteristics of the filigree on Celtic brooches and thence to derive conclusions as to the origin of the style and the dates and interrelationships of individual objects. Firstly, study both of manufacturing techniques and of motifs shows that Celtic filigree has much in common with Early Medieval Germanic work. Anglo-Saxon influence is particularly strong, but some decorative details may have been derived directly from Merovingian and Lombardic sources. Scandinavian influence, however, appears to have been transmitted via Anglo-Saxon England. Secondly, the manufacture of filigree in Ireland and Scotland probably started in the seventh century. Its development shows a gradual departure from Anglo-Saxon prototypes, as Celtic goldsmiths developed new techniques and forms and adapted to local taste. A complex and virtuouso style is already evident by the late seventh century. Extremely intricate and delicate pieces of filigree continued to be produced throughout the eighth and probably into the early ninth century, and the style continued with simplification of forms and techniques into the mid- to late ninth century. Most of the filigree is gold, and its manufacture seems to have coincided with a period when foreign gold was scarce but native gold available. Thirdly, within the corpus of Celtic brooches are to be found identifiably different traditions of design. The first to be developed, the so-called 'Hunterston-type', can be shown to be long-lasting: thus the Hunterston, 'Tara', Westness and and Dunbeath brooches have designs and techniques in common, yet-the Hunterston brooch appears to have been made in the late seventh century, while the Dunbeath brooch is probably of ninth-century date. Other forms may be derived from this group: the late eighth- to early ninth century 'Co. Cavan-type', and the ninth-century 'Killamery' and 'Loughan' types, the former representing a southern, and the latter a northern Irish fashion. Fourthly, there was a school of Pictish design which showed many of the features of eighth to ninth-century Celtic work. While some Celtic influence is evident on Pictish brooches, some Celtic work, e.g. the Kilmainham brooch, shows Pictish influence. Analysis of techniques and motifs in the Catalogue, and their summary in schematic tables, is intended to provide bases for the classification of future finds.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Celtic filigree from the seventh to the ninth century AD with particular reference to that on brooches
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116603
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