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The iconography of ancient Greek and Roman jewellery

Pinckernelle, Kathia (2007) The iconography of ancient Greek and Roman jewellery. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This work will examine the various forms of symbolism and iconography in jewellery from ancient Greece and Rome. It sets out to elucidate and place into the appropriate cultural context the motifs represented in jewellery from these civilisations. The work is largely divided into three parts. The first part, itself divided into sections dedicated to Greece (with Etruria as an afterthought) and Rome respectively, discusses the symbolism and iconography by introducing the most important deities and making the connection between them and the motifs occurring in jewellery. Naturally, a selection had to be made regarding the motifs: although the aim is to give a fairly broad overview and include more than just the most standard motifs, the examination cannot, for obvious reasons, extend to designs only singularly occurring in jewellery. It follows that the list of motifs discussed is by no means exhaustive yet some rarely ever examined motifs such as the tortoise, for example, are given space for consideration. The second part applies the above to a selection of extant jewellery. Each plate is critically described to draw together some of the conclusions of the first part in practical terms and to point at parallels if applicable. In the third part, some new interpretations are considered. Deriving largely from the findings of the first part, the identity of some motifs in particular can be newly identified (for example certain pomegranate or fennel seed pendants), while some jewels are looked at with a fresh interpretation. The comparatively uneven length between Greece and Etruria on the one hand and Rome on the other hand throughout the work can be explained by the nature of the evidence and by its relevance: Greek jewellery is highly naturalistic and consists mostly of part-representations of plants, animal and gods. The result is a large vocabulary of symbolism, which, as will be shown, can be traced back to a single or various deities. Etruscan jewellery, however, is more abstract and rich in stylised shapes and forms; at the same time, Etruscan goldsmiths placed much more emphasis on the decoration of (gold) surfaces, resulting in often globular or convex forms with intricate goldwork such as granulation. However, the Etruscans were of course in contact (and influenced) by the Greeks, so that some motifs overlap with those of Greece. Therefore, only Etruria-specific motifs, such as the 'bulla', or those more typical for Etruria than Greece, such as the Achelous head are discussed separately in an appendix to the Greek section. The jewellery of Rome, on the other hand, focuses on polychrome, simple designs, which are comparatively crude in execution. The fashion for colourful, expensive materials combined with a growing superstition and a need to express status and wealth mean that Roman jewellery is essentially about the amuletic purpose, gem materials and its use as status symbols. It is therefore necessary not only to consider motifs but also jewellery types as well as a selection of the most important gem materials. Note on the amended version (November 2007) As has been agreed with the examiners, the civilisation of Egypt has been removed, that of Etruria has been incorporated in the Greek section, and the original number of thirty-two plates increased to 102. However, due to the number of plates, the necessity of captions and the advantages of the image-processing programme used, the present organisation was deemed more user-friendly than the suggested incorporation in the text: as it is, the plates are arranged in numerical order together with their captions in sets of six per page at the end of the work. Again, all plates are reproduced in colour except for two plates where no colour image was available. The request for more in-depth consideration of the plates necessitated the addition of the second part. The third part summarises new interpretations already addressed in the first and second parts. More specific changes include the moving of Achelous from Greece to Etruria (although a Greek god, Achelous was comparatively more popular in Etruscan than in Greek jewellery); the addition of the sphinx as a protective motif; separate sections dealing with amphorae and astragals; the addition of the beech tree, and the addition of palmette, rosette, lotus, oak, beech and laurel to the contents page; the addition of the evil eye ('malocchio') and cameo jewellery to the Roman section; the rearrangement of the bibliography; the replacement of the appendices with a reference short list to gods and their attributes. The abstract, general introduction, introductions to the individual sections and the conclusion have all been worked over to substantiate and accord to the amended format.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Iconography, symbolism, jewellery, jewelry, Greek, Roman, Etruscan.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Moignard, Prof Elizabeth and Rush, Dr Sally
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Ms Kathia Pinckernelle Pinckernelle
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-318
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:17
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/318

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