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Home > Auctions > 2nd June 2020 > Viking Silver and Niello Inlaid Axehead with Beasts

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LOT 0475

GBP (£) 8,000 - 10,000
EUR (€) 8,990 - 11,230
USD ($) 10,080 - 12,600

Sold for: £8,125
(Inc. bp*)

Viking Silver and Niello Inlaid Axehead with Beasts

10th-13th century AD

An iron axehead of Wheeler's Type IV with curved blade and edge, bulbous socket, hammer to the reverse, featuring decorative panels executed in inlaid silver wire (filigree) in the fields with ornamental elements including reserved zoomorphs and geometric shapes; on the face of the butt-spur: a tongue-shaped panel of inlaid silver filigree, three reserved triangles and a piriform upper void forming a saltire; on the bulb of the socket: a large ellipsoid filigree panel with inner reserved saltire and four triangles to the spandrels, each with a notched edge; to the blade: an upper filigree panel with a stylised animal in profile (perhaps an elk) with characteristic curved upper lip, flanking flared ears, two long undulating antlers with reserved ovoids between, looped tendril detailing around the figure's outline; below: a pelta-shaped filigree panel with reserved animal (wolf?) in profile with slender body, 'S' shaped tail, forelegs extended and head reversed facing the raised tail, jaws gaping, annular eye, looped interlace tendrils in the field respecting the edges of the reversed image; the two faces are in mirror-image. 331 grams, 15.5cm (6"). Very fine condition.

From an important central London collection; previously in a European collection in the 1990s; formerly acquired on the German art market in the early 1980s; supplied with a report by Anglo-Saxon and Viking specialist, S. Pollington.
See Dobat, A.S., The King and his Cult: The Axe-Hammer from Sutton Hoo and its Implications for the Concept of Sacral Leadership in Early Medieval Europe, in Antiquity, vol.80, 2006; see Wheeler, R.E.M., London and the Vikings, London Museum Catalogues: No 1, London, 1927, for type; see Great North Museum, Hancock, Northumberland, reference 'Axe,_Yorkshire,_Bawtry_NEWMA.1904.20,' for a comparable find; see Karnell, M.H., Gotland's Picture Stones-Bearers of an Enigmatic Legacy, Gotländskt Arkiv, vol.84, 2012, for a comparison of the zoomorphic animal forms.
Examples of combination axe blades with striking faces have been considered sacrificial weapons in some instances. The use of decorative reserved zoomorphs is unusual for this period, displaying surprisingly naturalistic animal forms.