Leading Characteristics Ok Tiie Lateceltic Style Of
Once the eye of a trained archaeologist has become familiar with the general appearance of the art products of the Late-Cehic school, it is comparatively easy for him to recognise other products of the same school almost by intuition ; but he would find it a much more difficult task if he were asked to define exactly what the peculiarities are by which he is enabled to distinguish this particular style from any other. Most of the decorative elements composing the style are of so fantastic and original a nature as to impress themselves first on the retina of the eye, and then on the mind ; yet, on that very account, they seem to elude the
2 C. Elton's Origins of English History, p. 122.
descriptive powers of the writer. The motives employed are neither purely geometrical in character nor have they been obviously arrived at by conventionalising natural forms, but are something between the two, being (like the designs on the ancient British coins) the result of successive copying. We will, however, notwithstanding the difficulties that have been pointed out, endeavour to analyse the decoration of the Late-Celtic period as far as it is possible to do so.
Unlike the art of the Bronze Age, the art of the Late-Celtic period does not appear to have been in any way :' ltluenced by religious symbolism, and therefore must be looked upon as purely decorative. The designs may be divided into three classes as regards the method of their execution, namely :—
(i) Designs engraved on a flat surface, (a) Designs in relief on a flac surface. (3) Designs in the round.
The designs themselves may be classified as follows:—
(1) Anthropomorphic designs.
(2) Zoiimorphic designs.
(3) Designs derived from foliage.
(4) Curvilinear geometrical designs.
(5) Rectilinear geometrical designs.
Anthropomorphic and zoomorphrc designs are extremely rare in Late-Celtic art in Great Britain, and the two best-known examples—the buckets from Marlborough1 and Aylesford2—have, according to Dr. Arthur Evans, been imported from Gaul. The Marlborough bucket is encircled by four horizontal metal bands, the upper three of which are decorated with human heads
1 Sir R. O. Honre's Aniient Wilts, vol. ii., p. 34, and W. Cunningtun's Ccito-l, of Stouthead Coll. in Devizes Museum, p. 88.
and pairs of animals in repousse work. The projections at each side of the rim, to which the crossbar at the top is attached, have pairs of human heads upon them. The mountings of the Aylesford bucket consist of three bronze bands, the lower two of which are plain and the uppermost one ornamented with pairs of animals and a peculiar kind of scrollwork. Each of the attachments for the handle at the top has upon it a single human head surmounted by a sort of crested helmet.
The style of the art of the two buckets is the same, ar.d corresponds in some respects with that of the Gaulish coins,1 and in others with that of the sword-sheaths from La Tcne'! and the bronze ¿itnice from Hallstatt, Watsch, and Certosa.3 Dr. Arthur Evans has dealt so exhaustively with the details of these buckets and the origins of the art they exhibit n his paper on the Aylesford find in the Archteologiaf that there is really little more to be said on the subject. It may, however, be worth while directi"g attention to the scrolls hanging down from the mouths of one of the pairs of beasts on the Marlborough bucket. Anyone unacquainted with the origin of these scrolls would probably mistake them for the animal's tongue protruding from its mouth, but on comparing the designs on the Marlborough bucket with those on the situlcr iust referred to, the scrolls will be seen to be simply degraded copies of the branch of a tree on which the animal is feeding.
Equally important with the buckets from Marlborough and Aylesford are the bronze mounts of a
1 Dictionnaire ArcbMogique tie la Gaule.
2 E. Vouga, Les Ilelvites a la Tine.
! Illustrated in Munro's Bosnia Herzegovina, p. 407.
wooden bucket found more recently at Mountsorrel, Leicestershire. In this example the handle attachments are in the form of bulls' heads. The vertical bronze straps are decorated with a debased form of spiral scroll-work in relief, interrupted at intervals by raised rims.
Part of the bronze handle attachment of another bucket has been found between Twyford and Burrough Hill, Leicestershire, ana in this case also is the head of a bull, from which the ears ard horns project.1
Besides the buckets just described, there are a few other examples of zoomorphic designs n Late-Celtic art, amongst which are the small bronze figures of animals found at Hounslow,2 Middlesex, now in the British Museum ; the bronze armlet, terminating in serpents' heads, from the Culbin Sands,3 Elginshire ; the knife-handle, terminating in a bull's head, from Birdlip,1 Gloucestershire ; the iron fire-dogs,5 with uprights terminating in horned beasts' heads, from Mount Bures, Essex, Hay Hill, Cambridgeshire, and Shefford, Bedfordshire ; the horned bronze helmet from Torrs," Kirkcudbrightshire, now at Abbotsford; the swine's head from Liechestown,7 Banffshire, now in the Banrf Museum : and the bull's head from Ham Hill,* Somerset, in the Taunton Museum.
The heads of the bull on the knife-handle from
1 See Vict. Co. Hist. Leic. (1907), vol. i., p. 172, where the Mount sorrel bucket, as well as the fragment, are fully described and well illustrated.
2 Proc. Soc. Ant. Land,, .ser. 2, vol. ili., p. 90.
3 Dr. J. Anderson's Scotland in Pagan Times Iron Age, p. 156.
4 Trans. Bristol and Glouceslersh. Archeeol. Soc , vol. v., p. 137.
5 Archceulogia Cambrensi's, ser. 6, vol. i., p. 41.
0 Dr. J. Anderson's Scotland in I'cgan Times: Iron Age, p. 113.
* Proc. Somersetsh. Archeeol. Soc., ser. 3, vol. viii., p. 33.
Birdlip, and the beasts on the fire-dogs from Hay Hill and Shefford, have horns with round knobs on the end of each. Beasts with knobbed horns of this kind are represented on the Scandinavian gold bracteates1 of the Karly Iron Age, generally associated with the swastika symbol. Sin ilar horns are to be seen on the helmet of a small bronze figure found in Denmark;2 on a figure depicted on the silver bowl from Gunde-strup,= Jutland ; and on the handles of gold vessels from Ronninge,4 Boeslund,5 and Fyen,H Derm,irk. The horns probably have some religious significance.
Foliage so slightly convention Used as to be easily recognised as such cannot be said to exist in Late-Celtic art, yet the foliageous origin of many of the designs at once betrays itself in the undulating curves with scrolls repeated at regular intervals on each side of what may be called the stem-line. We cannot select any better examples as illustrating this than the two beautiful bronze sword-sheaths from the crannog at Lisnacro-ghera,7 Co. Antrim. Here the portions of the designs which represent the principal stem consist of two lines running close together parallel to each other until they reach the point where a smaller stem branches off, when they diverge. The smaller stems, like the principal stem, consist of parallel lines running close together, and these, again, diverge to form what re-
1 Prof. G. Stevens' Old Northern Runic Monuments.
8 J. J. A. Worsaae's Industrial Arts of Denmark, p. 109.
3 Sophus Miiller in Nordiske Fortidsminder, pt. 2, pi. io.
6 hidustrial Arts of Denmark, p. 105.
' Jour. A'. Hist, and A, A. of Ireland, ser. 4, vol. vi., pp. 3S4 -90. The decoration of a wooden tub found at the Glastor.bury Marsh Village affords another very good instance of a Late-Celtic pattern derived from foliage.
UPPER PART OF BRONZE SWORD-SHEATH, FROM LISNACROGHERA, CO. ANTRIM; NOW IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
LOW LR PART OF BRONZE SWORD-SHEATH, I ROM LISNACROGHERA, CO. ANTRIM ; NOW IN HIE BRITISH MUSEUM
presents the leaf. The ends of the leaves terminate in small spirals and their general shape resembles that of what are known as arabesques. We thus get the long sweeping S-shaped curves and the alternate contractions and expansions of the space between the two boundary lines which are common to nearly all Late-Celtic ornament. Now, for some inscrutable reason, the natural forms of plant life never seem to have appealed to the Celtic mind in the way they did, for instance, to the ecclesiastical sculptors of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Consequently the designs which were in the first instance copied from foliage soon became transformed into a succession of beautiful flamboyant curves, pleasing to the eye unquestionably, but suggesting but little to the rnind as to their meaning. In reference to this, Dr. Arthur Evans remarks :—1
"The tendency of ail Late-Celtic art was to reduce all naturalistic motives borrowed by it from the classical world to geometrical schemes. . . . Yet the whole, history of Late-Celtic art instructs us that this geometrical scheme, elaborate as it is, was originally based on ornaments of a naturalistic kind."
Once the foliageous origin of the flamboyant patterns was lost sight of or disregarded, it became easy to elaborate fresh designs by placing the forms derived from the leaves and stems of plants in all sorts of unnatural positions relatively to each other, as, for instance, on the pair of bronze spoon-like objects from Western, near Bath, which are now in the Edinburgh Museum of Antiquities, and In a particular class of pierced ornaments, several of which are i.lustrated in
L. Lir.denschmit's Die Alterthumer unserer heidnischen Vorzeiti1
A still further transformation resulted from the practice of drawing the various curves by means of a pair of compasses, and once this mechanical method had been adopted the temptation to introduce complete circles of different sizes into the designs would follow as a matter of course. This s very clearly seen on the ornamented bone spatula? from Slieve-na-Caillighe, Co. Meath, already referred to as having been found with a pair of iron compasses ; and also on backs of the bronze mirrors, of which a list is given on p. 115. It is most remarkable that the Late-Celtic artists should have succeeded in doing what has baffled everyone else before or since, namely, in producing "sweet" curves by means of a combination of circular arcs.
Lastly, when the patterns which had thus been evolved from natural foliage on a flat surface were transferred to the relief of the repousse metalwork, ana raised bosses, volutes, and round plaques of enamel substituted for the complete flat circles, an Engrave-rBone entirely new style of decorat;on was brought object from into existence. The most appropriate name Slieve-n»- that can he given to this particular kind Co'll^ath of Celtic ornament is flamboyant work. The French word flamboyer means to blaze, and the Gothic window tracery of the fourteenth century, in which S-shaped curves predominate, is called flamboyant
1 Vol. i., pt. x., pi. 6; vol. ii., pt. viii., pi. 5; vol. iii., pt. vii., pi. 6. Compare these with the ornament found at Silchester, illustrated in the Arch/eologia, vo!. liv., p 470.
HANDLE OF LATE-CELTIC BRONZE TANKARD FROM TRAWSF \ \ \ DT), MERIONETHSHIRE; NOW IN THE MAYER MUSEUM, LIVERPOOL
BRIDLE-BIT OF BRONZE EN WIELLED FROM RISE, NEAR HtfbL, NOW IN BBR BRITISH MUSEUM
SCALE 1 LINEAR
on account of its resemblance to tongues of flame. The handle of the Late-Celtic- tankard from Traws-fynydd,1 Merionethshire, now in the Liverpool Museum, if reproduced in stone on a larger scale, would certainly be mistaken for a piece of Gothic tracery, so that it may almost be looked upon as a blasphemous anticipation of Christian art by the Pagan Celt.
The best examples of the Late-Celtic flamboyant work, for purposes of study, are the bronze shield from the river Thames, a circular disc of unknown use from Ireland, both in the British Museum; the gold collar from Limavady, Co. Londonderry, in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin ; and the zEsica fibula, in the Newcastle Museum. There is also a disc in the Dublin Museum of similar design to the one in the British Museum, which is worth comparing with it.
The whole design of the shield from the Thames is arranged with a due regard to symmetry. The small circular plaques of enamel, which are a leading feature in the scheme of decoration, are placed in definite positions, in groups of four and eight, around a central plaque within a raised boss. The plaques are connected by S-shaped curves in relief, which vary in width and in height above the background in different places. The highest part of the curve is emphasised by a sharp ridge which does not traverse the whole length of the curve midway between the margins, but at one place approaches near one edge, and a little further on approaches the other. An extremely complicated solid, bounded by curved surfaces, is thus formed, the appearance of which can only be realised by seeing the thing itself or a model of it.
1 Archicofagia Cambretisii, ser. 5, vol. xiii., p. 212.
The circular bronze discs and the gold collar from Ireland exhibit a class of flamboyant work which is somewhat different from that on the shield from the
Thames, and is still further removed from the original foliage motive designs. Here conrhoids take the place of the circular enamelled plaques arranged in symmetrical positions, and the curves connecting them
DETAIL OF ORNAMENT ON LATE-CELTIC BRONZE SHIELD FROM THE THAMES AT BATTERSEA; NOW IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
with each other have the trumpet-shaped terminal expansions, which are so characteristic of the Latc-Celtic style, very highly developed. A further modification that disguises the foliageous origin of the design is the substitution of two C-shaped curves meeting at an angle for the more gracefully flowing S-shaped curves. Examples of a running pattern composed of C-shaped curves meeting at an angle in the way described, occur on a bronze collar from Lochar Moss,1 Dumfriesshire, now in the British Museum (see p. 112). A running pattern composed of C and S-shaped curves alternately meeting at an angle occurs on the enamelled mounting of a bronze bowl from Barlaston,Staffordshire. We have pointed out the changes due to copying in relief a design engraved on a flat surface; but curiously enough when the decoration of the repousse metalwork was again transferred to a flat surface, as in the enamelled fittings of the bronze bowls and in the spiral ornamentation of the illuminated MSS. of the Christian period, it did not return to what it was before, but became still
Flamboyant Ornament on
1 Archixologia, vol. xxx'ii., p. 347. Collar from Freighter,
2 Ibid., vol. lvi., p. 44. Limavady, Co. Londonderty
Spiral Ornament in Illuminated MS. copied from repoussé metalwork more unlike its foliageous prototype. It will be noticed that the ends of the trumpet-shaped expansions on the bronze discs and gold collar being in the highest relief catch the light. In the MSS. and enamels this effect is imitated by small almond-shaped spots of a dilferent colour from the rest. The. beautiful repoussé ornament on the bronze mirror from Balmaclel-lan,1 Kirkcudbrightshire, now in the Edinburgh Museum of Antiquities, supplies us with another instance of little raised bosses which were afterwards reproduced on the flat by means of colour in the Christian MSS.
Many of the curviF.near Late-Celtic patterns which are used to nil a circular space are based upon the triskele and the swastika. A good example of a curved swastika pattern occurs on each of the three enamelled handles of a bronze bowl found at lîarlaston,2 Staffordshire. Triskele designs are much more common, especially on the round disc fibula;, specimens of which have been found at Silchester,3 Hampshire; Brough,4 Westmoreland ; and in the Victoria Cave,6 near Settle, Yorkshire. There are other instances on the bronze
Spiral Ornament in Illuminated MS. copied from repoussé metalwork
1 Dr. J. Anderson's Scotland in Pagan Times: Iron Age, p. 127.
3 Now at Strathfieldsaye House.
5 Historic Soc, uf Lane, and Cheshire, Trans, for iS66, p. 199.
BRONZE ENAMELLED HARNESS-KING I ROM WESTHALL, SUFFOLK; NOW IN THI BRITISH MUSEUM
SCALE J LINEAR
tankards from Elveden,1 Essex, and Trawsfynydd,2 Merionethshire; on the bronze shield from the Thames,3 now in the British Museum; on a bronze disc-and-hook ornament in the Dublin Museum;4 on a bronze plate in the Welshpool Museum;5 on some bronze harness-mountings (?) from South Shields;0 on bronze wheel-shaped pendants from Seamill Fort,7 Ayrshire, from Berkshire, now in the British Museum, from Kirgs-holm,s near Gloucester, and from Treceiri, Carnarvonshire. These designs may have had a symbolical origin, as the triskele was a well-known sun symbol in the Bronze Age. The triskele arrangement of three spirals round a central spiral survived in the decoration of the illuminated MSS. of the Christian period.
In the repousse metahvork of the Late-Celtic period certain portions of the design are thrown ;nto relief in order to enable them to be distinguished from the rest which is not in relief. Much the same, artistic effect can be obtained when the design is engraved on a flat surface by means of shading, and in the case of enamelled plaques, by employing different colours. In fact, by the use of relief, shading, or colour, the decorative effect of a pattern is doubled, because there are two tlrngs for the mind to comprehend, namely, the shape of the pattern itself and the shape of the background. Anyone who endeavours to realise both shapes simultaneously will find it an impossibility.
Several different kinds of shading are used in Late-
3 Archaolngia Cambrensis, ser. 5, vol. xiii.. p. 212.
4 Kemble's Horce Ferules, pi. 15.
* The Reliquary far iqoi, p. 56. 5 Unpublished.
7 R Monro's Prehistoric Scotland, p. 378.
Celtic art, chiefly in ornament engraved on metal, wood, hone, and pottery, as will be seen by the following list:—
List showing different kinds of shading used in fMte-Ccltic Art, and the objects on which they occur.
(i) Shading of parallel lines.
On spoon-like bronze objects from Crosby Ravensworth, Westmoreland, ana Ireland.
On bronze mirror from Stamford 11:11, near Plymouth. On engraved pottery from Glastonbury Marsh Village. On bronze sword-sheath from Embleton.
On engraved piece of wood and engraved pottery from the Glastonbury Marsh Village.
^3) Cross-hatching placed diagonally, with dots in each of the square meshes.
^3) Cross-hatching placed diagonally, with dots in each of the square meshes.
On engraved wooden tub from the Glastonbury Marsh Village.
(4; Cross-hatching of double lines placed diagonally.
On engraved piece of wood from the Glastonbury Marsh Village.
(5) Chequerwork grass-matting shading.
On bronze sword-sheath from crannog at Lisnacroghera. On bronze mirrors from Trelan Bahow, Cornwall; Birdlip, Gloucestershire , from unknown locality, now in the Liverpool Museum ; and from Stamford Hill, near Plymouth.
(6) Kngine-turned shading.
(6) Kngine-turned shading.
On bronze spoon-like objects in the Dublin Museum.
On bronze harness-ring from Polden llill, Somersetshire.
On silver armlet from Stony Middleton, Bucks.
Resides the Late-Celtic objects just described, which exhibit curvilinear surface decoration derived from foliage, there are others with very peculiar forms "in the round." Amongst these are the harness-rings with projecting knobs from Polden Hill, Somersetshire;
Stanwick, Yorkshires and elsewhere ; the beaded torques frum Lochar Moss, Dumfriesshire; Hynford, Lanark; and the beaded bracelets from Arras and Cowlam, Yorkshire.
The projections on the harness-rings generally occur at three points round the circumference, and their shapes will be better understood from the illustrations than from any written description. It is not easy to say what the meaning or origin of these projections can be, as they beat no obvious resemblance to any natural or artificial object.
The beaded torques mentioned are composed of separate metal beads (usually of two (liferent shapes) strung on a square iron rod, so that they cannot rotate or rattle about. The bracelets are, however, cast in one piece, and made in mitation of a string of beads. This style of bracelet is of foreign origin, as specimens have been found in France- and Germany,2 many of which are elaborately ornamented with spiral-work in high relief.
Rectilinear patterns are of comparatively rare occurrence i.i Late-Celtic art, as the designers of the period appear to have had a rooted objection to using straight lines if they could possibly be avoided. There are, however, a few exceptions. The small circular enamelled plaques with which the bronze shield from the Thames, now ;n the British Museum, is decorated, have a swastika pattern on each. The swastika was probably a foreign importation, as it Swastika design on Shield from the Thames
1 Dictiomtaire Arrhialogique tic hi Gnu It'.
2 Lindenschmit's Atterthumur.
is used the decoration of the Gaulish bronze helmet from Gorge-Meillet1 (Marne), and of the iron lance-head from La Tene,2 Switzerland.
The step-pattern n Late-Celtic art may have had a textile origin, i.e. have been copied from a woven belt or other fabric. Instances of it occur on a piece of engraved wood from the Glastonbury3 Marsh Village ; on the bronze mountings of a shield from Grimthorpe,4 Yorkshire, now in the British Museum ; on the bronze ferrule of a spear-shaft from the Crannog at Lisriacro-ghera,® Co. Antrim ; and on a sculptured monolith at Turoe, Co. Galway. The step-pattern survived after the Pagan period in the Christian enamels, as in the bowl from M6klebust,s Norway, and the fragment at St. Columba's College,7 Dublin. The key-pattern, or Greek fret, is unknown in Late-Celtic art.
The chequerwork pattern may also have had a textile origin. There is an example of it on the bronze sword-sheath from Embleton,8 Cumberland, now in the British Museum.
The chevron and lozenge patterns are possibly survivals from the preceding Bronze Age. We have instances of the chevron pattern on the bronze mirror from Trelan Bahow,® Cornwall, and on a potsherd from the Glastonbury10 Marsh Village; and of the lozenge on the stave of a bucket11 from the same site.
1 A. BertránJ's ArchA>logie Celtique et Gauluise, p. 3(17.
8 The Antiquary fur 1805, p. 110.
4 LI. Jewitt's Grave Mounds and their Contents, p. 246.
6 Jnur. R. Hist, and Archival. Assoc. of Ireland, ser. 4, vol. vi., p. 304.
' J. B. Waring's Manchester Fine Art Treasures Exhibition.
Tiie Antiquary for 1895, p 110.