• Sale 1583

    Ancient Jewelry

    8 December 2005, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 52

    A GREEK GOLD AND GARNET SNAKE ARMBAND

    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA LATE 4TH-3RD CENTURY B.C.

    Price Realised  

    A GREEK GOLD AND GARNET SNAKE ARMBAND
    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA LATE 4TH-3RD CENTURY B.C.
    Formed from a stout strap, flat on the interior, carinated on the exterior, coiled into a spiral, the ends terminating in two coiling naturalistically-modelled snakes, the scales well detailed, the heads finely contoured, the bodies forming a "Herakles knot" at the center, the tails looping and undulating outward along the lengths, the knot centered by an oval cabochon garnet in a plain bezel, framed by filigree twisted wire and granulation
    4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm.) long


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    The use of the snake in jewelry made its first appearance in the Greek world during the Geometric Period, the earliest example being an anguiform bracelet found in Eleusis. The motif can be seen worn by female figures depicted on Athenian vases during the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., but it was during the 4th century B.C. and following that there was a "veritable explosion of the snake motif on jewelry" (see Bianchi, et al., Cleopatra's Egypt, Age of the Ptolemies, p. 202).

    For an armband similar to the present example, said to be from Eretria and now in the Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, see pl. XXIV in Deppert-Lippitz, Grieschischer Goldschmuck. As Bianchi informs (op. cit., p. 202) although "the serpent as a motif was imbued by the Greeks with several different levels of interpretation," its popularity may be simply because "the natural coiling form of a serpent rendered it an ideal motif for those types of jewelry which provided the allusion of being wrapped..."

    Provenance

    German Private Collection, 1980.