Northern Europe, probably Gotland or Denmark, Viking period, ca. 10th to 12th century CE. A beautifully preserved gilt silver buckle or strap end, a masterwork of the Viking style that also features Christian elements. The elongated ovoid form centers on a relief cross surmounted by a large triquetra and surrounded by further intertwined motifs. Set back from the cross and gilded is a zoomorphic form including the classic Viking motif of grasping paws on its lower end. This remarkable example combines Christian, Viking, and Celtic elements. Low horizontal tabs on the back indicate that it was once attached to a strap or another metal component. Size: 3.25" W x 1.2" H (8.3 cm x 3 cm); the silver is 84% pure while the gilt is 61% gold (equivalent to 14K+); total weight: 22.3 grams
The use of the triquetra in Viking art is fascinating - scholars are not sure if it was used to represent the Christian Trinity or concepts in Norse mythology. It originated in the Celtic world and first appears in Viking art from the mid-9th century, when it was associated with women's brooches. Then Cnut the Great (r. 1016-1035), king of Denmark, Norway, and England, added it to his coins, as did king Harald Hardrade (r. 1047-1066). The presence of the cross indicates that, for whomever owned this lovely item, it was symbolic of the Trinity. That person may have been from Roskilde, Denmark, whose cathedral, founded with Anglo-Saxon connections around 1000, was dedicated to the Trinity.
See a very similar example at the British Museum (1921,1101.189).
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-private Kaliningrad (Koenigsberg) and then Latvia collection, acquired prior to 1982
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Rich patina on all surfaces. Some light scratching and deposits but details and form are very clear. This would have once been attached to something else (see tabs on back) that is now lost.