Champagne and the premier style continu

Nowhere is this process of experimentation better illustrated than in the Champagne, where in addition to palmette and lotus, the lyre or lyre-palmette were among those motifs adapted from classical sources through Italic intermediaries into the Celtic artist's repertory, most frequently appearing either as opposed pairs of S-scrolls

Images Celtes
Figure 4.1 Transition towards the Developed La Tène Styles. A: 1, base design of the Schwarzenbach bowl; 2, design of drinking horn cap from Schwarzenbach. Adapted from Jacobsthal (1944): not to scale. B: the Auvers disc. Photo: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

enclosing a palmette, or in a continuous vertical sequence. An especially fine example is the gold-covered bronze disc, possibly also a drinking-horn lid, from Auvers-sur-Oise (Figure 4.1B), in which the lyre-scrolls, highlighted by repoussé dotting in the manner

Celtic Lyre
Figure 4.2 Phalerae with open-work borders from St Jean-sur-Tourbe. Museé des Antiquités Nationales. Photo: RMN, Paris © Loïc Hamon.

of fifth-century Early Style pieces, flow into three-leaved palmettes, while fragmented palmette or lotus leaves fill the outer spaces between the lyres. In fact, the component motifs are still essentially independent, though sharing in places a common dotted outline. What lends the composition its sense of incipient movement is the fact that it can be viewed either from the centre outwards or from the outer edge inwards, the former reading giving a fleshy but unmistakable series of lyre-palmettes, the latter offering a more enigmatic image in which eyes, nose and 'judicial wig' anticipate the 'Cheshire Style' figures of the ensuing Waldalgesheim or Vegetal Style of La Tène art.

The sequence of stacked lyres or lyre-chains is well represented in the Marne region, notably in the border open-work of the coral-inlaid bronze disc from the chariot burial at Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe (Figure 4.2). The open-work lyres run into each other to form a continuous movement in the design by means of interlocking waves, and are accentuated by simple incised lining in a manner that also characterizes the insular example from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. The open-work chariot-mounts from La Bouvandeau at Somme-Tourbe illustrate the experimental nature of this process. Not an identical pair, they both use S-motifs, single, paired or opposed as lyres, upright or inverted. In the example with terminal palmette, the design at the broader end is effectively continuous, with subsidiary tendrils enhancing the sinuous quality of the design. For the most part, however, the lyre elements are stacked rather than truly interlocking (Figure 4.3). The idea of conjoined lyres was not unique to the Champagne, though the impression of restless movement is distinctive of this western group. On the gold strip from Klein Aspergle or on the handle of the Dürrnberg flagon, for example, where a

Map Cerrig Drudion
Figure 4.3 Open-work mount from La Bouvandeau. Museé des Antiquités Nationales. Photo: RMN, Paris © Gérard Blot.

similar design is in both instances combined with palmettes, the lyres are linked by a series of circlets rather than in a continuous movement.

These tentative steps towards a more fluid rendering of classical models reach a culmination in a series of objects, the distribution of which is centred in the Champagne region, and which Verger (1987), developing earlier work by Paul-Marie Duval and V. Kruta, categorized as a Premier Style Continu, that is, a slightly later development of the strict Early Style or Premier Style Classique, embodying the new trends described above. Most lavishly ornamented of these pieces is the unprovenanced beaked flagon in the museum at Besançon (Figure 4.4; Frey, 1955). It was undoubtedly of Italic manufacture, but was subsequently embellished by a Celtic artist from neck to base with a series of panels that transform classical imagery into sinuous, fleshy designs in which the sense of restless movement is pervasive. The ornament on the neck of the flagon has regularly been compared to an Etruscan flagon in the British Museum (Figure 4.4, 1; Jacobsthal and Langsdorff, 1929), on which the classical design of central palmette with flanking scrolls could almost have served as the model for the Besançon artist. Here the scrolls comprise lush, interlocking leaves, the spines of which are highlighted by wavy lines with alternating dotting. Leaves, similarly depicted, link a series of alternately upright and pendant palmettes on the shoulder of the vessel; the palmettes are reduced to three disconnected leaves within a semi-circular panel, and have been seen by Frey as antecedents of the fan-motif that is archetypal in the ensuing Waldalgesheim Style. The main panel, which occupies most of the vessel's body, elaborates on these themes, but with the leaf-scrolls flowing not into simple palmettes, but into interlocking yin-yangs supported by a peltate frame in which palmette-leaves have

Celtic Civilization
Figure 4.4 Engraved decoration of the Besançon bronze flagon. 1, design on unprovenanced bronze flagon in Brtitish Museum; 2—5, Besançon: 2, neck; 3, shoulder; 4, girth; 5, base. Panels not to same scale. 1 adapted from Jacobsthal and Langsdorff (1929), 2—5 adapted from Frey (1955).

disintegrated to form fillers together with curved-sided triangles. Below, a narrow band of slender leaves is again highlighted and enclosed with wavy line and dotting. Finally, the base is decorated with a four-cornered whorl, a variant on the commoner three-cornered whorl, made up of leaf-scrolls linking in a yin-yang, from which spring fragmented half-palmettes. This combination of leaf-scrolls, yin-yang and fragmented half-palmettes is closely replicated in a three-cornered whorl on the innermost panel of decoration on the interior of the bronze basin from Les Saulces-Champenoises, a chariot-burial in the Ardennes (Figure 4.5, 2).

In fact, notwithstanding its uncertain provenance, the Besançon flagon belongs stylistically with a group of metal-work from north-eastern France, which includes the Berru helmet (Figure 4.5, 1) and the bronze discs or phalerae from Écury-sur-Coole (Figure 4.5, 3 and 4), both in the Marne. Closest in design to the shoulder panel of Besançon are two sections of the Berru helmet, both displaying what Jacobsthal called 'intermittent wave tendrils' linking fans containing simplified palmettes, one having supplementary leaves to fill the spaces between tendril and fan. The composition on the larger Écury-sur-Coole disc is broadly symmetrical, and composed of four fan-like devices linked by slender leaf-tendrils. The fans in outline resemble an opposed pair of comma-leaves, but with the disarticulated leaves of palmettes unifying their component parts and the leaf-tendrils. The whole design is again contained within a border of wavy line with dotting. Some of the technical devices of the Champagne group, including the use of wavy line with dotting, are also found on key examples of insular La Tène art, like the Witham and Wandsworth shields, though rendered rather differently. In terms of stylistic similarities, however, the Cerrig-y-Drudion fragments and the Wisbech scabbard show closest affinity with the Continental series.

The combination of motifs into recurrent themes and similarities in technical detail argue positively for the emergence early in the fourth century in the Champagne region of an innovative group of Celtic artists whose luxury products combined elements from the preceding phase of the Early Style with new and imaginative rendering of classical vegetal models. Some of the key motifs that distinguish these innovative works are those that Jacobsthal used to define his Waldalgesheim Style, but the examples from the western group are not stylistically the same as those from the Rhenish type-site or elsewhere. In fact, our examination of the La Tène Early Style or series of Early Styles would not lead us to expect a unitary expression of this developed phase either, still less to assume the need for a single point of origin.

0 0

Post a comment