Jewelry from Byzantium at Les Enluminures Medieval Art Gallery
Byzantium and the West: Jewelry in the First Millennium
Les Enluminures opens its Fall show in November at its new gallery on 23 East 73rd Street
(Penthouse) with an exhibition and catalogue entitled “Byzantium and the West: Jewelry in the
First Millenium.” The exhibition assembles approximately 40 objects made of precious metals and
including rings, pendants, earrings, and brooches from the third to the tenth centuries.
Published by Paul Holberton in London, the full-color catalogue explores the interrelationships
between East and West during the first millennium. This was the time that the Roman Empire was
gradually replaced by barbarian invaders, who spread through Europe and created new styles of
jewelry; it was also when the capital shifted eastward to the newly founded city of Constantinople.
Among the themes treated are the transition from late Roman types to Byzantine ones, including the
design of new shapes; an interest in exotic stones and changes in fashion; the function of rings
(marriage, personal monograms, official status, and religious iconography), and the Western Gothic
imitation and development of Byzantine prototypes.
Examples from the early third and fourth centuries in Rome feature an elaborate “key” ring, pierced
with the words “utere felix” (Use with luck) and an ornate yet sophisticated band set entirely with
emeralds. There is a late-fifth century Byzantine Parure that includes a pendant cross and
related earrings. From the same era, an Ostogothic group is comprised of polyhedral earrings, a
pendant cross, and a ring, all with beautiful garnet inlay.
The author of the catalogue, Jeffrey Spier, is a university associate and adjunct professor at the
University of Arizona. He has published extensively on Greek and Roman gems and jewelry and on
early Christian and Byzantine art. His publications include: Picturing the Bible. The Earliest Christian Art
(Yale University Press), 2007; Late Antique and Early Christian Gems (Reichert Verlag, 2007), Ancient Gems
and Finger Rings: Catalogue of the Collections. The J. Paul Getty Museum (Getty Publishing, 1993), and
Treasures of the Ferrell Collection (Reichert Verlag, 2010).
The Preface is by Sandra Hindman, a medievalist and owner of Les Enluminures (Paris, Chicago, and