A British Museum laboratory analysis of the gold gives the following results: 79.6 gold, 11 silver, 9.4 copper, which is characteristic of unrefined ancient gold.
Traces of blue enamel in the bow's filigree decoration, on the central cordon and in one eye of the animal head protome. Pin and spring missing. Solder repair joining catch-plate to animal head terminal on bow. Warrior's two foot rests repaired underneath attacking hound. Side attachments to helmet now missing. Sword blade missing with solder mark on warrior's right shoulder where blade may have been supported.
B. Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts, London, 1999, p. 93; S. James, Exploring the World of the Celts, London, 1998, p. 42; J. Wood, The Celts, London, 1998, p. 13; P. Berresford Ellis, Celt and Roman: the Celts in Italy, London, 1998, pl. after p. 114; I. M. Stead and N. D. Meeks, The Celtic Warrior Fibula, The Antiquaries Journal, 76, 1996, pp. 1-16; I. Zaczek, Chronicles of the Celts, London, 1996, p. 25; R. M. Rowlett, The Golden Celtic Warrior Fibula, Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology, Jonsered, 101, 1993, pp. 198-228; R. and V. Megaw, Celtic Art, London, 1989, p. 122 and 124; Early Celtic Art, exhibition catalogue, Edinburgh, 1970, p. 8, no. 35; K. Raddatz, Die Shatzfunde der iberischen Halbinsel, Madrider Forschungern, 5, Madrid, 1969, p. 144; O. Klindt-Jensen, A Golden Statuette of a Celtic Warrior, Antiquity, 35, 1961, p. 53, pl. 5; Celticum: Actes du premier colloque international d'etudes gauloises, celtiques et protoceltiques, I, Rennes, 1961 (front cover); and O. Klindt-Jensen, Una statuetta d'oro d'un guerriero celtico, Documenti e Studi, 6, Bologna, 1960, pp. 361-366.
The Celts were renowned for their fine metalwork, creating their own unique style although with possible influences from Hellenistic, Etruscan and Thracian metalworking. Access to gold came through local European sources, as well as through trade and bullion. From circa 400 B.C. onwards Celtic migrations led to trade and conflicts which generated huge amounts of booty. Migrations from the original Celtic heartland centred in the Marne, Moselle and Bohemia regions (known as La Tène culture), brought the Celts into conflict with the Romans. The sack of Rome in 390 BC only ended after the Celts had been paid off in substantial amounts of gold which, according to Livy, amounted to 1000lbs in weight. The valley of the River Danube funnelled migration eastwards towards the Balkans. The Celts defeated the Macedonians in 280 B.C. and laid siege to the Greek sanctuary of Delphi a year later. From the same date, a band of Celts (the Galatians) even reached as far as Asia Minor, the furthest eastern point of their influence.
The confident workmanship of the Celtic Gold Warrior Fibula therefore comes at a time of the widest extent of the Celtic world in the 3rd Century B.C. The Fibula is exquisitely created from a pure and rich coloured gold with its vibrant and dynamic subject of a Celtic warrior hero surrounded by snarling and ferocious animals, giving the effect of a larger three-dimensional sculptural group. The attention to detail is remarkable from the accurately observed weapons and armour to the carefully delineated toes and fingers of the warrior clasping the grip on the back of the shield; so, too, the finely chased animal heads and the delicate filigree tracery on the bow of the fibula in which are traces of blue enamel. The deeply inset eyes of both the warrior and the animals would, also, have been enlivened with blue enamel.
Rare amongst ancient fibulae of this period is the ingenious locking mechanism to ensure that the pin did not spring free. On the curving bow, the animal head furthest from the warrior would have been fitted with a coiled spring and pin which would have attached the folds of drapery to the wearer's right shoulder. The pin, now missing, would have slotted into the catch-plate over which the boar's head slides to lock it into place. The top of the boar's head has a runnel into which the snout of the pursuing second animal on the bow rests. This boar's head locking mechanism still slides easily up and down and is a clever decorative device that solves the problem of securely fixing the pin. Evidence of wear along the spirally twisted foot of the Fibula would suggest that it was indeed worn more regularly than solely for ceremonial use.
The style of the Fibula suggests influences not only from the Mediterranean world but also from Western Europe. The filigree decoration on the bow closely copies a Greek motif while the warrior bears a large oval shield which is typical of the La Tène period in Celtic chronology. Close parallels include The Chertsey Shield, a fine bronze 3rd-2nd Century B.C. shield found in the River Thames at Chertsey in Surrey, as well as depictions of captured Celtic armour on the late 2nd Century B.C. reliefs at the sanctuary at Pergamon in Asia Minor. From the warrior's waist-belt hangs a La Tène type scabbard, typically depicted on the right handside; in his right hand he wields the now bladeless hilt of his sword. The helmet, of Montefortino type, has solder traces on the sides from either horn or wing attachments.
The heroic nudity of our figure fits with descriptions of Celtic warriors in ancient literature and from archaeology. The famous group of Roman marble copies of statues from Pergamon of dead or dying Celts are all depicted naked. There are descriptions in literature of Celts fighting naked. In Polybius' description of the Battle of Telamon in Italy in 225 B.C. between the Romans and Celts, he writes that they threw off their garments "owing to their proud confidence in themselves, and stood naked, with nothing but their weapons, in front of the whole army".
What the imagery on the Fibula symbolizes is open to speculation. It should be remembered that the Celts had a love of visual riddles, so well seen in their convoluted designs often hiding secondary images. This extended into their religion and mythology, too, with tales of deities frequently changing shape and taking on the guise of animals. Apart from the obvious boar head, the animals all come from the canine family and are dogs or wolf-like hounds. Certainly boars and dogs figure prominently in Celtic iconography. As a hunting scene, the snarling dogs could well be in pursuit of their quarry, the boar. However, the boar was not only hunted, but also revered as a sacred animal possessing magical qualities. It was a symbol of fertility, strength and power, as well as that of protection and, as such, frequently occurs as the device on shields and as helmet crests.
However, the Fibula is most likely to represent a noble youthful hero successfully overcoming initiation tests. The hero on the Fibula is clean-shaven suggesting a youth on the verge of manhood. He is shown in conflict with a ferocious wolf or hound, having to overcome his first initiation to pass into full manhood and take up his status in the warrior class. This theme is frequently met in European and Mediterranean myth and legend. In later Celtic Irish literature, Cú Chulainn, "the Hound of Cúlann", the young hero of the Ulster Cycle, undergoes his first initiation by having to kill the watchdog of Cúlann before going on to become the superhuman champion of his people. Later in the tales, he is harried in combat by Morrigan who changes herself into various animals including a she-wolf. Although the Ulster Cycle is based on 9th Century A.D. manuscripts, it has been argued that the heart of these stories lies in a much earlier Celtic European tradition. In the Greek myth of the Labours of Herakles, Herakles captured the cattle of Geryon by killing the guard-dog, Orthrus, as well as capturing Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to the Underworld. In Thrace, an area overun by the Celts in circa 270 B.C., the local war deity is Kandaon meaning "dog-strangler" who was said to have a wolf-like appearance. Mythical Thracian heroes often had names derived from the Greek word for wolf "lykos" and the wolf and dog came to symbolize the hero-warrior or war. There are obvious iconographic parallels, too, with St. George and the Dragon.
The Celtic world was certainly based on a noble aristocratic warrior society with tribal groups being headed by a chief or king. Prestige, power and status were won by courageous exploits and the accumulation of wealth in the form of livestock and, above all, gold. Polybius writing about the Celts of northern Italy states that "Their possessions consisted of cattle and gold, because these were the only things they could carry about with them everywhere", Diodorus Siculus writes "they amass a great amount of gold which is used for ornament not only by the women but also by the men".
The Celtic Gold Warrior Fibula is an exceptional example of the skillful creation of an exquisite portable luxury treasure conveying the power and wealth of its noble and prestigious owner. The technical virtuosity of its construction is breathtaking and the dynamic composition with the strangely gentle face of its human participant makes this object compellingly charismatic.
A European Community Cultural Goods definitive export licence from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is available for this lot.