Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Another strand in the cable

Gold foil decoration of early La Tène style mounted
on a modern wooden form reflecting the shape of
the appliqué. From Schwarzenbach, Hunsrück,
Rhineland. Jacobsthal (1944) 18: "... Furtwängler (AA 4 
1889, 43) was the first to see that the piece is not a
flat strip, but the veneer of a hemispherical cup; yet 
misapprehensions and incorrect drawings still linger
[For an explanation as to why I am not titling this post "Another link in the chain", see here (Richard J. Bernstein quote).]

Very early Celtic gold foil appliqués are mostly associated with Rhineland graves, and the earlier Hallstatt D gold foil appliqués with the grave at Hochdorf. Jacobsthal listed only one strip of gold foil from France (Jacobsthal 25, from Somme-Bionne, Marne, Morel, Pl 8, 6, a cart burial) of a slightly later date and although, technically La Téne 1, it is of the "early style" which is reminiscent of the geometric Hallstatt D styles and could be called "transitional". Later Marnian examples from France illustrated by Jacobsthal are more plentiful and their decoration is often based on the classical Dionysian ivy-scroll.

It was easy to get an impression that the practice of using such foil applications started in the workshops of the Rhine area and then spread to the Marne. However, there are some very early Marnian finds already known. I own one myself, the archetypal La Téne 1 brooch which has certain Hallstatt features and the rare type, known from only two other examples is also considered to be transitional Hallstatt/La Téne. It cause some excitement when shown, by its previous owner, to the British Museum.

My own theory about the La Téne style is that it marks a syncretistic transition between the native Celtic religions and the Greek Dionysian religion and that the "melting pot" was in northern Italy. Most of the Italian finds, however, showed a far greater transmission to the Rhineland, and the design elements were based mainly on such things as palmette derivatives, dragon pairs, etc. even though the connections to wine are always very strong. The definitive ivy-scroll which deals with an opposite to the vine scroll in Dionysian imagery had shown no clear movement from northern Italy directly to France and was widely called "the Marnian scroll" because of its focus on that part of France (it also exists in Britain).

So I am very happy to see that the recently discovered Celtic princely tomb in Lavau has yielded a Greek or Etruscan gold foil-decorated black-figure oinochoe depicting a Dionysian subject while the foil is of Hallstatt, rather than La Téne style. There is a picture of the foil decoration at the lip of the vessel here and at just above the foot in this photograph.

The later focus on the ivy-scroll in Champagne might point to a different focus on the nature of the Dionysian/Celtic syncretism in France (perhaps also connected with the Senones' presence in northern Italy), or it might be a later development that saw no transmission along the Rhine, but it is a very welcome new strand for me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment