Medieval Token of Love

Medieval heart-shaped silver brooch acquired by Fife Cultural Trust in 2012 with an NFA grant of £250

Medieval heart-shaped silver heart

Medieval heart-shaped silver brooch

This heart-shaped silver brooch lay underground in Fife for hundreds of years until 2012 when it was discovered by a metal detectorist who reported the find to the Treasure Trove Unit. Under Scots Law objects whose original owner is unknown become the property of the Crown. For archaeological finds this law is used to ensure that finds of cultural significance are allocated to museums for public benefit. The finder is eligible for an ex gratia reward to recognise their contribution. Experts at the Treasure Trove Unit identified the brooch as a medieval love token, perhaps given by a husband to his wife. The reverse is inscribed ‘+ihesus nazren’, an abbreviation of the inscription ‘IHESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDEORUM’ which was often inscribed on jewellery in the belief that it would protect the wearer from harm.

Similar brooches dating from the 15th century have been found but this brooch is unusual in dating from the previous century. Brooches of this type are decorated with floral designs and engraved on the back. Examples from the 15th century have French inscriptions but this example has Lombardic lettering. The style of the brooch pin is similar to others from this date with a bar and collar resembling the hilt of a sword.

In 2013 the brooch was claimed as Treasure Trove and offered to museums in Scotland for their collections. Fife Cultural Trust made a successful bid and the brooch was added to the collections with the help of a grant from the NFA. It is now on display in Moments in Time, the local history exhibition at Kirkcaldy Galleries which opened in June 2013.

Jane Freel
Museums Curator
Fife Cultural Trust

Treasure Trove Scotland

All that glisters is not gold … it’s very often silver

Two silver brooches made by Georg Jensen, Shooting Star, 1970, designed by Henning Koppel and Möbius, 1968, designed by Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, and a silver and enamel brooch, 1971, and silver and enamel pendant, 1978, by Norman Grant, acquired by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums in 2012 and 2013 with three grants totalling £800.

Since stepping into post here at Aberdeen Art Gallery as Curator of Decorative Arts I have had the great good fortune to have been heavily involved in making discerning purchases of metalwork for the collection. The purchases have focused on items of silver jewellery made by artist/craftsmen and women in the 20th century. Each piece epitomises the style of its respective era and could easily be discussed in the context of the architecture, interiors, fashion and popular design of the time.

Silver brooch designed by Henning Koppel and made by George Jensen

Silver brooch designed by Henning Koppel and made by Georg Jensen

Two brooches by the firm of Georg Jensen, dating from the late 1960s, were designed by different ‘in house’ designers. Henning Koppel (1918-81) collaborated with Georg Jensen over many years and designed the amorphic Shooting Star brooch while Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe (1927-2004) designed the iconic Möbius piece. Both pieces are symbolic of what we have come to associate with the classic simplicity of Scandinavian design.

Silver brooch designed by Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube and made by George Jensen

Silver brooch designed by Vivianna Torun Bulow-Hube and made by Georg Jensen

Both the Georg Jensen brooches are manifested in the work of architect Eero Saarinen who invoked suggestions of flight in his designs for the terminal at Dulles International Airport outside Washington DC and the TWA Terminal in New York, both finished in 1962.

Silver and enamel brooch by Norman Grant

Silver and enamel brooch designed and made by Norman Grant

Norman Grant designed and made both this enamelled brooch and pendant. Grant was born in Forres in 1943 and studied at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, initially in graphic design before diversifying into silversmithing. His early pieces were colourful and derived inspiration from both organic and pop art forms. His trendsetting work acquired ‘must have’ status in the mid-1970s, worn by celebrities such as Sandy Shaw and Mick Jagger.

Sivler and enamel pendant by Norman Grant

Silver and enamel pendant designed and made by Norman Grant

Grant’s jewellery with its emphasis on earthy colour tones and irregular arrangement of shapes echoed those of the textiles designed by Bernat Klein (1922-2014), a number of whose garments are also in the collection at Aberdeen. Klein’s inspiration was derived from nature and the colours found there; often the seemingly haphazard juxtaposition of colour blocks made the most natural combinations.

The NFA is ecumenical in its approach to financial assistance – it supports the acquisition of modern and contemporary pieces as well as older historic ones. The NFA really fosters and supports the sense of purpose which Aberdeen Art Gallery has in common with many other galleries and museums; to continue to collect both actively and selectively.

Vikki Duncan
Curator of Decorative Arts