Ar of the EorL La Tene

T~~1 lie geographical roots of the "early" style

__have been traced to the middle Rhine region of Germany. It is characterized by abstract curving and repetitive patterns, usually of natural floral designs. Formal Greek and Etruscan examples were modified into a more distinctive flowing design. The influence of the Hallstatt period on this "Early" style was in the use of geometric ornaments and animal motifs, which were adapted into these repetitive patterns.

While some of these geometric patterns were drawn freehand, others were produced using compasses. An actual pair of La Tene period compasses, which were probably used by artists, were discovered in Celles in western France. It seems as though these Celtic artists were combining the beauty of the natural world around them with their own sense of geometric order. The plants and animals in their metalwork were only partially realistic, since their stems or limbs were stretched and intertwined. The natural subject matter was adapted to conform to the order imposed by the human artist.

In some cases animal or human faces were intertwined with these designs, such as the gold drinking horns from a grave site at Weisskirchen in Germany, which ended in ram and ewe heads. A Celtic human face was added to an imported Etruscan vessel as a handle, but it combined human and animal qualities. Celtic art of this period was symbolic and symmetrical rather than realistic. Greek, Etruscan, and even Oriental (Persian) influences have all been suggested in early Celtic art, indicating that these Celtic artists sought inspiration from the objects brought from the Celtic world's trading neighbors as well as from the natural world surrounding them. A gold bracelet found at Rodenbach in Germany was probably influenced by contemporary "oriental" artwork, while other objects found in the same fifth century BC grave site were Etruscan and Greek in origin.

The I.a Tene period is seen as the high period of pre-Koman Celtic culture, and La Tene period artifacts arc found throughout much of Kurope. To most art historians, "Celtic art" is synonymous with this period, which lasted from the fifth century BC until the Roman conquest of Gaul. La I cnc art has been categorized into four distinct styles: Larly; Waldalgcshcim; Plastic; and Sword. These were not sequential phases but rather they represent artistic themes.

Below: Pair of linchpins for a wagon, 3rd century bc, found in Yorkshire, England. Vehicles of any kind would have been extremely valuable and therefore decorated as befittted their importance. These end pieces display the swirling forms of early La T6ne style.


Rhin, Eigenbllzen e rh,

Saint Jean sur Tourbe Auvers sur-Oise jParis ( Somme-Tourbe /i Somme-Bionne / Cuperly Euffigneix —' Source de I» • Seine


A more free-flow form

The grave of a Celtic princess was discovered at Waldalgesheim in Germany, and finds from the site mark a departure in Celtic style. The principal feature of this sty le is the replacement of symmetrical geometric patterns with an unrestrained flowing form of decoration. Similar lavish female graves dating from the fourth century BC have also been found in the same area, which has been identified as a cradle of Celtic art.


Sites of major and representative finds of the La Tene culture between c.500-700 bc.

Saint Jean sur Tourbe Auvers sur-Oise

Rhin, Eigenbllzen e jParis ( Somme-Tourbe /i Somme-Bionne / Cuperly Euffigneix —' Source de I» • Seine

Basse Yutz Pfalzfeld Weisskirchen Waldalgesheim / Schwarzenbach Rodenbach




Kleinaspergle • Holzgerlingen '

• Msecké Zehrovice BOHEMIA



Sopron paa.

Roquepertuse. . Entremont



• Bononia ETRURIA

The Kifel and Hundsrück regions to the west of the River Rhine contained a large number of graves, and many of these held rich gold and bronze jewelry, equestrian equipment, drinking and eating items, and weapons. Most of these objects exhibited this new free-flowing style. While some of the objects still exhibited a degree of symmetry and uniformity, many of them combined this with less constrained forms of decoration. Neck tores were commonly produced in this free Waldalgesheim form. Running tendrils and swirls of decoration were commonplace on these objects, and by the third century BC similar patterns appeared in Celtic sites in northern Italy and western France.

These Waldalgesheim patterns were not limited to jewelry. A bronze "jockey cap" helmet from Amfreville in France was decorated with a series of relief patterns hammered onto the helmet from the back (the repoussé method). The base was decorated with an ironwork frieze, while a Greek-style recurring wave adorned the central band. Although some styles had regional roots, influences for Celtic craftsmen came from a variety of sources, and different styles could be used concurrently.

Left: The Basse-Yutz Flagon c.400 bc, shows clear Etruscan influences in the handle and spout design.

Below: A bronze bead from the La Tène II period (3rd to 2nd centuries bc), found in what are now the suburbs of Paris.

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