Influence of the Developed Styles on insular art

For most commentators of insular Celtic art, a retarded chronology has been axiomatic, with an inviolable threshold around 300 bc. In consequence, there are no unequivocal examples of the Continental La Tène Early Style, and any reflecting the developed Waldalgesheim tradition are generally nevertheless seen as displaying an insular character (Frey and Megaw, 1976). Megaw and Megaw (2001, 192) nevertheless cite the Cerrig-y-Drudion fragments (Figure 4.11, 1) as an example of the 'classic Waldalgesheim or Vegetal Style'. Jope, who once thought that it 'must have been made by a Gaulish craftsman' (1961a, 74) eventually believed it to have been a 'provincial' product, which, 'though structurally unique, is stylistically not entirely isolated in its insular setting' (2000, 25). An essential similarity has frequently been remarked between the fleshy lyre-palmettes of the rim ornament of Cerrig-y-Drudion with Breton pottery ornament, notably that from St Pol de Leon. In metal-work, there are certainly similarities in the rendering of palmette and leaf motifs with the bronze disc from Écury-sur-Coole, though the proportions of each are different, while the theme of alternating palmette and leaves of the Cerrig-y-Drudion rim plate and the 'yin-yang' of the body fragment can be matched in more than one panel on the bronze flagon from Besançon. The background to the Cerrig-y-Drudion design is hatching or basketry, but not of the regular, square-based variety that characterizes later insular mirror-ornament, and therefore not in any way indicative of a date later than the fourth century. In fact, this form of basketry hatching is not exclusively British, unless we are to see an insular artist as responsible in the early La Tène period for just such embellishment of a bronze chariot-nave from La Gorge Meillet (Jacobsthal, 1944, No. 157), the Erstfeld torcs (Wyss, 1975) or the Borsch flagon-handle (Jacobsthal, 1944, No. 353).

The Standlake scabbard (Figure 4.10, 5) is in many respects the prime example of Waldalgesheim-influenced ornament in Britain. As a composite piece, the dating of the scabbard is a contentious issue that will be addressed later. For the present, its importance lies in the two ornamental plates, one at the front of the chape, the other at the mouth of the leather scabbard. The basal bronze plate adopts the low-relief Waldalgesheim effect, in a meandering tendril that would not be out of place in the company of classic Continental examples. The upper plate is dominated by a bold relief design of pelta suspended from a loop, for which third-century parallels such as the Torrs pony-cap might be invoked. At the same time, from this main motif extend low-relief spatulate arms in clear Waldalgesheim fashion, with the ends of the pelta

Gorge Meillet

Figure 4.10 Scabbards with 'Vegetal Style' ornament. 1, Epiais-Rhus, Val d'Oise; 2, Filottrano, Ancona, Italy; 3, Moscano di Fabriano, Italy; 4, Liter 1, Hungary; 5, Standlake, Oxfordshire, England. Adapted from Kruta et al. (1984), Megaw (1982), Szabo and Petres (1992). Standlake drawn from original in Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Figure 4.10 Scabbards with 'Vegetal Style' ornament. 1, Epiais-Rhus, Val d'Oise; 2, Filottrano, Ancona, Italy; 3, Moscano di Fabriano, Italy; 4, Liter 1, Hungary; 5, Standlake, Oxfordshire, England. Adapted from Kruta et al. (1984), Megaw (1982), Szabo and Petres (1992). Standlake drawn from original in Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Ornament Styles Italy
Figure 4.11 Insular early La Tene metal-work. 1, Cerrig-y-Drudion, Denbighshire, adapted from Smith (1926); 2, Newnham Croft, Cambridgeshire, 2a adapted from Fox (1958), 2b drawn by D. W. Harding by kind permission of the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.

finished in similar technique. The background is basketry hatching of the asymmetric (non-square-based) kind. Other insular examples have been claimed of Waldalgesheim or less specifically Waldalgesheim-derived ornament, but few are convincing, and in any event are better treated within the broader compass of developing insular styles. The tendril design of the Newnham Croft bracelet (Figure 4.11, 2) certainly owes its theme if not its execution to Continental inspiration, though the reality is not quite as impressive as Fox's drawing implied. The Brentford 'horn-cap', a heavy casting that could have served as a yoke-fitting, on the other hand, has a near-symmetry that is alien to Continental Waldalgesheim, and shares several elements, peltae, curved triangles and bossed finials, with later pieces like the pair of 'spoons' from Weston, Somerset. The penannular brooches from Woodeaton and Beckley (Figure 6.10, 8 and 9) are more remarkable for their innovative insular form, unlike anything from Continental Europe, than for any influence upon their ornamentation, which is on such a limited surface that it can hardly be characterized with confidence.

One striking example of Waldalgesheim influence that passed unremarked until its rediscovery in recent years is the shield from the Trent near Ratcliffe-on-Soar, Nottinghamshire (Watkin et al., 1996). Recovered from the river at the end of the nineteenth century, it was not initially recognized as the boss, spine and terminal roundels of an Iron Age shield. Like other insular parade shields, the length of the spine around the central umbo is not equally divided, though the construction and ornament are otherwise symmetrical. Most closely related to the Waldalgesheim style are two panels of meandering tendril design, not identical but in diagonally alternate relationship on the flanges of the spine, that have their closest parallels on the fourth-century scabbards from Moscano di Fabriano or Filottrano. The matching pair of alternate panels, likewise not identical, departs from the normal Waldalgesheim repertory, having sharply angular elements that hint at the presence of exotic beasts. The design on the central boss, essentially a composition in rotational symmetry around its diagonal, also includes angular elements, which, together with a profusion of pseudo-under-and-over intersections, heighten a sense that the affinities of this piece are with the Hungarian Scabbard Style, itself, as we shall see, a development out of Waldalgesheim antecedents, and that the elusive beasts concealed in the foliage are related to the dragon-pair menagerie. The piece is truly unique, and may well have been the product of a craftsman familiar with Continental fashions in the later fourth or early third centuries bc.

A more recent find that again reflects the Continental Waldalgesheim Style is the ornament of the sword-hilt from Fiskerton, Lincolnshire (Field and Parker Pearson, 2003), a waterlogged site by the River Witham that may have been the focus of ritual deposits. The ornament (Stead, 2003) includes simple lyre-palmette motifs extended into triskele-vortices, and meandering tendrils with fan-finials of the kind that Jope regarded as diagnostic of the Waldalgesheim Style. The wooden causeway with which the votive deposits were associated was apparently in use from the mid-fifth to later fourth centuries bc, which certainly does not require any time-lag in the adoption of Continental fashions in Britain.

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  • Andrea
    How is influence construction & ornamentation?
    7 years ago

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