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Home > Auctions > 24th May 2016 > Greek Gold 'Pontic Aristocratic' Diadem with Gemstone

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LOT 0195

Sold for (Inc. bp): £11,160

6 1/4" (84 grams, 16cm).

A gold diadem consisting of a twisted rope border with a series of heart shaped scrolls with applied acanthus leaves and flowers with gold wire detail and tear drop shaped settings with blue enamel, flowers recessed for red enamel inlay; central wire motif in the form of a Hercules knot with applied flowers and acanthus leaves with tear drop shaped setting with blue enamel; in the centre a amethyst cameo with the bust of a woman wearing a diadem and robes held at the shoulder by a brooch; one small flower element present but detached.

Property of a Mayfair, London, UK, businessman; previously in an important South German collection since the beginning of the 20th century. Supplied with a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate.

Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

Cf. for another diadem of similar design and construction see an example in the Athens National Archaeological Museum, ex Helene Stathatos collection and said to be from Thessaly. Ref. Aikaterini Despini, Greek Art: Ancient Gold Jewellery, Athens, 2006 (text in English), pl.29-30, dated to the last quarter of the 4th century BC, and with further bibliography. There is a diadem of similar technique from Canosa, Southern Italy in the Tarentum Museo Archelogico Nationale, inventory number: 22.437, ref. Despini, Op. Cit. No.38, dated to circa 200 BC, and with further bibliography; for another example of similar design and construction refer to the example of a fragment of a diadem (about a third) from the Erotes Tomb, Eretria, Northern Greece, dated to the late 3d century BC, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Inv. No. 98.798), ref. Herbert Hoffmann & Patricia F. Davidson, Greek Gold: Jewellery from the Age of Alexander, Brooklyn, 1965, p.60, no.3.

Ancient Greek colonisation began at an early date, during the so-called Geometric period of about 900 to 700 BC, when many seminal elements of ancient Greek society were also established, such as city-states, major sanctuaries, and the Panhellenic festivals. The ancient Greeks were active seafarers seeking opportunities for trade and founding new independent cities at coastal sites across the Mediterranean Sea. By the seventh and sixth centuries BC, Greek colonies and settlements stretched all the way from western Asia Minor to southern Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and even to the coasts of southern France and Spain. Regional schools of artists exhibited a rich variety of styles and preferences at this time. Trading stations played an important role as the furthest outposts of Greek culture. Here, Greek goods, such as pottery, bronze, silver and gold vessels, olive oil, wine, and textiles, were exchanged for luxury items and exotic raw materials that were in turn worked by Greek craftsmen. After the unprecedented military campaign of Alexander the Great, more extensive trade routes were opened across Asia, extending as far as Afghanistan and the Indus River Valley. These new trade routes introduced Greek art to cultures in the East, and also exposed Greek artists to a host of artistic styles and techniques, as well as precious stones. Garnets, emeralds, rubies, and amethysts were incorporated into new types of Hellenistic jewellery, more stunning than ever before. The most important of the Black Sea colonies were Kyzikos, Sinope, Pantikapaion, and Olbia. The colonies along the shores of the northern Black Sea interacted with the local Scythian and Sarmatian peoples who prized the workmanship of the Greek goldsmiths with many examples having been found in the kurgans, or burial mounds, of the aristocracy. This diadem shows many similarities to work found in the Pontic region, as well as the diadem found with the female buried in the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, at Vergina in Greece. The gold pectoral from Thick Barrow, Dnipropetrovsk Region, Ukraine, now in the Hermitage Museum, shares many similarities in style and technique with this diadem, particularly the use of fine wires and the scrolling flowers. The closest parallel to this piece is a gold diadem from Thessaly and dating to the fourth century BC, which is now in the Getty Museum, Malibu. The use of cameos on the front of diadems seems to be particularly associated with the eastern Greek craftsmen and their patrons, with the best known example being the Sarmatian crown from Khokhlach kurgan, now in the Hermitage. The image on this cameo could well be a portrait of the original owner, a highly important individual of the Pontic aristocracy.