Thursday, January 25, 2018

Archaeological Items of Irish origin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was recently browsing for something completely different in The Met’s online catalogue when I thought ‘I wonder if they have any Irish stuff?’ Not only do they hold Irish material in their collections, they generously make photographs available under a Creative Commons Zero Licence. These 20 items are all of metal (bronze, copper alloy, silver, and gold), and represent finds from 10 counties (Antrim, Cavan, Cork, Down, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Westmeath, & Wexford) along with five merely provenanced to the island of Ireland. Together they are ascribed to three archaeological periods: Bronze Age (9), Iron Age (1), and Early Medieval (10). The Met does hold a number of other ancient Irish pieces, but all are without images so I've decided to omit them from this post.

The one story that strikes me immediately from putting this collection together is to wonder who one Patrick O'Connor of New York was and how he amassed his little collection of metalwork and how it came to be sold in 1949. However, that may be a research project for another day. I'm also intrigued by the peculiar silver torc, dated by the Met to the Iron Age. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other surviving silver torcs of this age ... and certainly none with this form of decoration. I'd certainly welcome anyone with better knowledge and insight to set me straight on this. While most of the items detailed here may not be of the very best of what ancient Ireland had to offer, all deserve to be better known within the broader archaeological community!

Bronze Age

Copper alloy disk. c. 1000 B.C. (12.1 x 2.3 cm)
Provenance: “From Mullingar (County Westmeath).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)”
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.1




Copper alloy pin. c. 1000 B.C. or later (?)(30.6 × 5.3 × 2.4 cm)
Provenance: “From Ireland (County Cavan).; Estate of Captain John Ball (died 1938), England (unknown date); John Brayfield Ball (died 1939); [John Hunt, Ireland (ca. 1939?)]; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)”
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.4a, b




Copper alloy chape (Terminal of a Scabbard). 900-600 B.C. (16.5 x 4.3 x 1.7 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “George Roots (1807–1891), London (b.1807-d.1891); Christie's, London, April 20, 1891, lot 28; Lt. General Augustus Pitt Rivers (1827–1900), Farnham, Dorset, England (1891-?); [Alistair McAlpine, London (1987)]; Peter Sharrer, New York (until 1998)”
Gift of Peter Sharrer, 1998
Accession Number: 1998.540.2




Gold ‘dress fastener’. c. 800 B.C. (5.3 x 2.8 x 2.9 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “[Sydney Burney, London (sold 1933)]; [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1933–1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.10




Gold ‘dress fastener’. c. 800 B.C. (11.8 x 5 x 5.9 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “Sotheby's, London (May 19-22, 1913, no. 420); International Studio Corporation, New York (until 1940); [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1940–sold 1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.9



Gold disk from a reel. c. 800 B.C. (12.2 x 1.5 cm)
Provenance: Found in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. “Patrick O'Connor Family, Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan, Ireland; Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, Ireland (before 1944); [Harold Naylar, Dublin]; [Patrick O'Connor, Dublin and New York (sold 1946)]; [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1946–1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.14




Copper alloy pin. 5th–4th century B.C. (11.9 x 2.6 x 0.5 cm)
Provenance: "From County Antrim.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.10




Copper alloy Torc. c. 1000 B.C. (22 x 21.5 x 1.8 cm)
Provenance: "From Loch Gur (county Limerick).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 9.125.2



 

Copper alloy necklace. c. 1000 B.C. (20.3 x 13.5 x 1 cm)
Provenance: "From Loch Gur (county Limerick).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.3



Iron Age

Silver Ribbon Torc. 500 B.C.-A.D. 400 (overall: 10.2 × 1.7 × 32 cm)
Provenance: “Found in Rathcormac, Co. Cork, Ireland (1882–1883); Robert Day, Cork, Ireland (by 1885); Rev. Mr. Neligan, Rector, Shandon Church, Cork City (sold 1885); [Ready and Rollin, London (sold 1885)]; Private Collection, Vienna(formed 1950s to 1980s–sold 2011); [Bonhams, London (April 13, 2011)]; [Rupert Wace Ancient Art Limited, London (sold 2013)]”
Purchase, Director's Fund and Rust Family Foundation Gift, 2013
Accession Number: 2013.613



Early Medieval

Silver penannular brooch. Early 800s (5.2 x 9.3 x 1.8 x 9.5 cm)
Provenance: Discovered in June 1854 in a field near Galway, Ireland. “Found near Galway, Ireland.; Lt. General Augustus Pitt Rivers (1827–1900), Farnham, Dorset, England; Carruthers, London; K. J. Hewett Ltd., London (1981); Ward & Company Works of Art, New York (sold 1981)”
Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1981
Accession Number: 1981.413




Copper alloy penannular brooch. 7th century (6.2 x 3.3 x 0.9 cm)
Provenance: “Alastair Bradley Martin, Guennol, Glen Head, New York (until 1953)”
Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1953
Accession Number: 53.48.5



Copper alloy pin. 9th century (?)(10.5 x 2.5 x 1.3 cm)
Provenance: Discovered on a crannog in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Owned by Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.11




Copper alloy pin. 9th century (10.2 x 1.1 x 1.4 cm)
Provenance: Discovered on a crannog in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Owned by Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.12





Bronze Penannular Brooch. 6th–7th century (4.6 x 10.1 x 1.2 cm)
Provenance: Said to come from Cashel, County Tipperary.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.7





Copper alloy pin. 6th–8th century (7 x 1 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.15




Copper alloy annular brooch. 9th century (22.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 cm)
Provenance: "From Glenarm, County Antrim.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.9





Bronze penannular brooch with garnets. 9th century (3.6 x 22 x 0.6 cm)
Provenance: "Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.8





Copper alloy pin. 10th century (12.6 x 1.1 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.13





Copper alloy pin. 10th century (8.7 x 0.6 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.14