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Bracelet with terminals in the form of confronting goats

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: Greek-East-Greek
: 5th century B.C.
: Gold and agate
: Diameter: 11 cm

Ex- Swiss private collection; acquired in the 1950’s-1960’s


Finely detailed goat-protomes of banded agate form the terminals of this rare gold bracelet from the easternmost reaches of Classical Greece, where a rich and longstanding artistic heritage of Asia Minor and Western Asia inspired artists to create fascinating objects of exquisite beauty. The heraldic or confronting image of goats, as well as other real and mythological animals, is a motif that has a long history in the iconography of Western Asia, and it is an artistic concept that influenced Greek art from the Mycenaean period onward.

As small-scale sculptures, the goats are delicately carved and their capricious nature is effectively conveyed by their confronting pose, which is in keeping with the often observed behavior for these animals. Whether domesticated or in the wild, where their greatest natural range extends from northwestern India to Crete, goats are known for their agility and ruggedness, and their ability to climb and survive in mountainous habitats on sparse vegetation. Therefore it is not unusual that these members of the genus Capra, among the first domesticated animals, should appear in the art and iconography of these regions as symbols of endurance, resilience, and strength.

Although the goat-protomes of this bracelet are similar and almost mirror opposites, the sensitivity of the ancient artist to the material with which he worked is apparent, as each animal is individualized by utilizing the nuances of banded agate. The artist gave the goats different markings, just as one may find these animals in the natural world. The nose and mouth of one goat is distinguished by a band of white around the muzzle with lighter brown stone at the end of the nose, while beneath the other goat, the area of the abdomen is marked with a semi-circular band of white bordering light brown stone; the forelegs of both animals are banded and mottled differently with white and light brown coloration as found in the seemingly random coloration of some goat species. The artist also made full use of the stone’s translucency, as the finely carved horns and particularly the ears of the animals allow the light to pass through, which provides the carefully worked agate with subtle nuances of shading. The finely detailed lines that indicate the long, thick locks of wavy goat hair add different textures to the animals, and successfully replicate their natural appearance. This treatment is juxtaposed by a polished surface finish that suggests smooth, short hair that would be found around the goat’s faces.

The hoop of the bracelet is formed of hammered sheet gold rolled into a tubular form. At the ends, where it joins the terminals, the collars are ringed with two zones of decoration made with beaded wire, the designs consisting of double spirals and teardrop-shapes, each zone being bordered by a double ring of beaded wire.     


WILLIAMS D. and OGDEN J., Greek Gold: Jewelry of the Classical World, New York, 1994, pp. 140-141, no. 83, gold bracelet with sphinx protomes, one of a pair, ca. 400-350 B.C., Hermitage KO 20; pp. 156-157, no. 96, pair of silver bracelets with gold lion-heads, ca. 400-380 B.C., Hermitage P. 1854.28-9; pp. 182-83, no. 118, pair of gold bracelets with terminals in the form of leaping rams,  330-300 B.C., Hermitage BB 194-5; pp. 228-229, no. 161, pair of gold bracelets with ram-head terminals, 450-400 B.C., British Museum GR 1896.2-1. 141.2; p. 250, no. 189, pair of gold lion-head bracelets, 450-400 B.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, 74.51.3560-1.

PICON C. et al., Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007, pp. 170, 440, no. 197, pair of rock crystal bracelets with gold rams-head terminals, ca. 330-300 B.C., MMA 37.11.16-17. Also in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: silver bracelet with gold lion-head terminals, 5th – 4th century B.C., MMA 30.115.86; gold and copper alloy bracelet with lion-head terminals, 5th century B.C., MMA 74.51.3559; silver bracelet with gold calf-head terminals, late 6th – 5th century B.C., MMA 1986.11.11; bronze bracelet with couchant horses at terminals, Western Iranian, 1st millenium B.C., MMA 1988.102.14; bronze bracelet with couchant leonine animals confronting, Iranian, 6th century B.C., MMA 1988.102.15; silver and electrum bracelet with lion-head terminals, Iranian, 1st millennium B.C., MMA 51.72.3.

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