The Hungarian Scabbard Style

Hungarian scabbards have been divided by Szabo and Petres (1992) into those with ornament belonging within the Waldalgesheim continuum, and those that stylistically may be regarded as later. In fact, the conventional chronology for the Hungarian Scabbard Style is quite compressed, its start being dated hardly before the early third century, with its decline apparently by the second quarter of the second. While there may well have been direct influence from western Waldalgesheim centres, we should not discount the possibility of further impulses from the Mediterranean (Frey, 1974, 150).

The Liter 1 scabbard (Figure 4.10, 4), as we have seen, is the closest in the series to displaying 'pure Waldalgesheim' ornament. The upper panel of scabbard 1 from Tapolca-Szentkut (formerly Halaphegy) (Figure 5.1, 1) consists of a similar simple tendril in sub-Waldalgesheim style, so that there can be no doubt that the Hungarian workshops were conversant with that style; but here it is combined with the distinctive diagonal layout of the Hungarian Scabbard Style in which the engraved ornament and its infilling are much more stylized.

A recurrent element in the Hungarian Scabbard Style that might also be seen as analogous to the progressive aspiration of craftsmen in the west to imbue classical motifs with a sense of restless movement, is the use of devolved lyre-palmettes and lotus motifs. As in the west, the process was essentially one of deconstruction, with the residual elements being re-assembled in a form that barely acknowledges its origin. The outline of the design on the Jutas 2 scabbard (Figure 5.1, 2) might thus owe its inspiration ultimately to the lyre-palmette, while the filler elements, including over-and-under figures-of-eight and sinuous triskeles, are certainly common in the Waldalgesheim repertory. But the lack of integration of the frame of the design and the filler-motifs, together with the symmetry of composition, are distinctive of the Hungarian Scabbard Style. The same lack of integration is displayed by the scabbard from the region of Voivodina, Serbia (Figure 5.1, 3), in which a simplified lyre-palmette outline has axillar fillings of stylized lotuses, again arranged in symmetrical composition. Their origin is undoubtedly classical, but their treatment bears no relationship to any previous use of the lotus and must be indicative of the manifold and recurrent influences that combined to generate this distinctive eastern style. These simplified and stylized motifs continue in use either as infilling or as terminal finials, as on the scabbard from Batina (Kiskoszeg), Croatia (Figure 5.1, 4), anticipating the later variant of the Hungarian Scabbard Style.

Connections between the Hungarian Scabbard Style and Western Europe are most clearly attested by the middle of the third century by comparison between the iron scabbard from Cernon-sur-Coole in the Marne and the scabbard from Drna in Slovakia (Figure 5.2, 1 and 3; Megaw, 1973). One striking motif, the bird's head with long, curving bill and plumage rendered as curving hatched triangles, could have been the

Celtic Scabbard
Figure5.1 Hungarian and related scabbard ornament — 1. 1, Tapolca-Szentkut 1; 2, Jutas 2; 3, Voivodina region, Serbia; 4, Batina/Kiskoszeg, Croatia. Adapted from Szabo and Petres (1992).
Hungarian Ornament
Figure 5.2 Eastern and western scabbards. 1, Cernon-sur-Coole, Marne; 2, Montbellet, Saone-et-Loire; 3, Drna, Slovakia. Adapted from Szabo and Petres (1992) and Duval and Kruta (1986).

signature of a specific middle Danubian workshop. On the Cernon scabbard it forms a terminal motif within a tendril design; on the Drna scabbard it occupies one end of the suspension-plate as part of a larger design in which hatched, curving triangles are also dominant. Significantly, the suspension-plate of the Cernon scabbard has a low-relief design in the Waldalgesheim tradition, matched exactly, but in different orientation, by one of the Szob series of scabbards (Szabo and Petres, 1992, Pl. 63), suggesting the continuing currency of the earlier style. The sophistication of technique of the Cernon scabbard is indicated not simply by the use of both low relief and incised ornament, but also by the subtle surface treatment of individual panels, designed to reflect light differentially (Duval and Kruta, 1986). Both bird's head motif and curved hatching occur again on a scabbard fragment from Montbellet, Seine-et-Loire (Figure 5.2, 2; Bonnamour and Bulard, 1976), in which the ornamental panel is on the inner face of the surviving back-plate, indicating secondary re-use. The design, which follows the Hungarian fashion for a diagonal layout, includes hatched, curving triangles as infilling and a variant of an over-and-under figure-of-eight design that leads in one axis to a simplified bird's head terminal. Other examples of the hatched, curving triangle motif include one of the Kosd scabbards (Szabo and Petres, 1992, Pl. 41), one from Lovasbereny (ibid., Pl. 46), and one from Izkovce, Slovakia, suggesting that this was indeed a local stylistic tradition in the middle Danube.

One of the most distinctive scabbards of the Hungarian series is that from an uncertain provenance in the Veszprem district, frequently known as the Halimba scabbard (Figure 5.3). The ornament is essentially divided into three separate panels, the upper emanating from a Type I (or possibly Type III - it is badly abraded) dragon-pair immediately below the scabbard-mouth, the lower leading into the decorated chape. The whole composition has a tendency towards the diagonal, induced by the central swelling-leaf motif of the complex tendril design. This is especially apparent in the central element in which the tendrils are balanced in rotational symmetry around the swelling leaf. The upper and lower panels are basically made up of half each of this composite element. Raftery (1994b, 490) has pointed to the tantalizing similarity between this design and the very worn traces on the back of the Bann 1 scabbard plate from Co. Antrim; indeed, some aspects of the Halimba ornament echo the ornament of the Irish scabbard series. The symmetry of the Halimba design is not absolutely exact because of the freehand technique and differences of scale. Furthermore, wear has eroded the ornament of several tendril-ends, so that it is uncertain whether exact symmetry was maintained. In terms of infilling, swelling S-motifs, peltate finials and simple spiral comma-leaves seem to be represented. Dating remains problematical. Notwithstanding the inclination of Eastern European prehistorians to date much of the Hungarian Scabbard Style to middle La Tene, and not necessarily an early phase within it, de Navarro (1972, 84-6) was inclined to assign this piece to an earlier horizon, on grounds of ornamental style and scabbard typology.

Because of the lack of adequate contexts and associations, it is not clear whether symmetrical layout of scabbard ornament and the distinctive diagonal arrangement were sequential or concurrent, though the means of progression in principle has been demonstrated by Frey in his analysis of the Bolcske-Madocsahegy 1 scabbard. The diagonal effect is simply achieved by splitting a symmetrically balanced acanthus composition and reversing the lower component (Frey, 1974, Fig. 2.1-2), exactly the experimental approach to formal symmetry that Celtic artists in the west had adopted at an earlier stage of development. By contrast, the upper ornament on the Bolcske-Madocsahegy scabbard (Figure 5.4, 1) is still a symmetrical composition with echoes of the lyre-palmette, and with infilling of figure-of-eight and droplets reminiscent of a disintegrated palmette. The scabbard is also of interest because of its use of triple dots in the voids, a curious signature that it shares with the scabbard from Cernon-sur-Coole and some of the Irish scabbards.

The two Bolcske scabbards (Figure 5.4, 1 and 2), sometimes attributed to the same craftsman, are commonly regarded as prime examples of the later Hungarian Scabbard Style. Szabo and Petres (1992) argued that the later Hungarian Scabbard Style was characterized by a process of geometricization and increasing abstraction in design, with simplified triskeles or S-shapes, or sometimes just simple wedges or droplets being deployed as filler-motifs. One of the scabbards from Szob (Figure 5.4, 4) and one from Dobova (Figure 5.4, 3), the latter with associations from the La Tene C1-C2 phase, indicating a date spanning 200 bc, well illustrate this trend. What brought about this formalizing trend is unclear; Szabo and Petres (1992, 48) alluded to the

Figure 5.3 'Halimba' scabbard from Co Veszprem, Hungary. L. 64 cms. Adapted from Szabo and Petres (1992).

Antrim Celtic Art
Figure 5.4 Hungarian and related scabbard ornament — 2. 1, Bolcske-Madocsahegy 1; 2, Bolcske-Madocsahegy 2; 3, Dobova, Slovenia; 4, Szob. Adapted from Szabo and Petres (1992).

conservative tendency of scabbard artists, and even likened it to a reversion towards the formulaic aspects of the Early Style. The continuing fashion for geometric stamped decoration on pottery into the La Tene C phase has sometimes been suggested as an influence on sword ornament. The grave associations, where they exist, clearly indicate a later third- or early second-century date for their deposit, though this of course could be considerably later than the construction and ornamentation of the scabbards themselves, so that the clarity of the sequence is far from assured. In any event, by the mid-second century, the Hungarian Scabbard Style was in decline.

If the decline of the Hungarian Scabbard Style is dated with reasonable certainty, there remains the question of its inception. Eastern European scholars have been cautious in advancing too early a date, though Waldalgesheim influence could argue in principle for the beginnings of the style as early as the fourth century. Associations include brooches of essentially early La Tene type, as at Kosd grave 16, where they are accompanied by later brooches of middle La Tene type with Plastic Style ornament, perhaps indicating the inclusion of older grave-goods in a later deposit. The Kosd scabbards also display a very distinctive form of chape-end that proclaims a connection with regions further west. Instead of a simple oval or cordate form, the Kosd chapes have a segmented construction, created by the insertion of circular studs. This variant is also displayed by the Irish scabbards, and others in Western Europe. But rather than invoking direct connections between these polar extremes, Jope (2000, 353) rightly insisted that all were regional derivatives from an ancestral early La Tene form that developed in north-eastern France out of earlier late Hallstatt anchor-chapes. They are therefore evidence not so much of direct contacts but of a broader European koine in the armourer's repertory, which might include technical tricks of scabbard construction as well as stylistic traits in ornamentation.

+2 0

Post a comment