Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pimping up the chariot

Lower linchpin terminal, Dobunni, early 
1st cent. AD, Width: 24mm. In current coll.
I bought this lower linchpin terminal many years ago. It is part of a suite of chariot and horse mounts, but only one one other component is known and that is the horse mount from the Studeley Castle collection, currently in the Cheltenham Museum.  I had wanted to include a photo of the Cheltenham Museum example, but there are no images of it on the web. You could buy an image from the Cheltenham Museum, but it is illustrated in two major works that are really essential for any library on early Celtic art -- so those would be a wiser purchase. The earliest book is Sir Cyril Fox, Pattern and purpose;: A survey of early Celtic art in Britain, The National Museum of Wales, 1958. Despite its age, this is still a very useful book and was the first survey of British early Celtic art. Essential for any library on the subject it is also very reasonably priced! The other book that illustrates the horse-fitting is E. M. Jope, Early Celtic Art in the British Isles: 2-Volume Set, Oxford, 2000, which is the second survey of British early Celtic art. Absolutely essential for any serious scholar, it is much more expensive than Fox -- even for used copies.

Fox says of it (p. 127):
"It shows the dynamic structure which may be associated with formal ornament in this closing phase of our art. ... Nothing could be less exciting than the two three-way figures on the circular panels, identical, typically Belgic, and "moving" in the same direction; but how unexpected is the lateral compression of each of their frames, and of the unit carrying the leathers which the mind cannot but envision as being under intense pressure! There are other (non-Belgic) decorative elements -- the patterning here and there on the smooth bronze surfaces, and the boldly ornamented rims of the triquetras -- to lessen the dominance of the main concept. The creative originality and distinction of mind and spirit which the Celt possessed is here fully brought out."
Jope is no less eloquent in singing its praises (p.300 f.):
"Harness-junction of solid bronze; the figure-of-eight strap-junction is as if pressed hard together at the waist by the two rings with eccentric swelling; these have a solid centre with compact threefold whirl, against stippled ground, and enamel spots at centre and in the three bud-like heads; enamel spots also in the swellings and strap-junction, all set off with stipple-textured swags. The enamel spots where damaged are seen to have been set in drilled sockets with centre holes. ... The underside shows scored compass circles, apparently for setting out the openwork. This is a masterpiece of simple design, the apotheosis of pressure tectonics." 
These two examples of chariot/pony trappings were not mass-produced products, they were undoubtedly made for the same rig. Perhaps the larger upper linchpin terminal was of similar design to the strap-junction - perhaps everything showed variations on the theme. While the other image might be held for ransom, anyone (even the Cheltenham Museum)  can freely use my own image, as always, for any purpose. (click on image for enlargement).

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