Eastern Mediterranean; Bulgaria
Overall: 1 3/4 x 7/8 x 1/16 in. (4.4 x 2.2 x 0.2 cm)
The greatest diameter of the suspension hoop: 1/4 in. (0.6 cm)
Weight: 0.2 oz. (5.1 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Julia Schottlander (Tetragon) on October 31, 1992. Said to have come from Bulgaria.
This bronze pendant cross features a low relief human figure stretched across the front. Its thinness, light weight, small size, and suspension loop support the theory that the piece was intended to be worn around the neck, although an accompanying chain is not present. Additionally, the scratches visible on back on the cross demonstrate that it was probably worn frequently and often brushed against clothing. The bronze material indicates that the pendant was an affordable amulet that was mass produced through the use of molds.
The object presents no clear required attributes for the wearer. Such an owner may have been a man, woman, or child, as the pendant’s size and weight make it perfect for everyday use by any individual. The shape of the pendant as a cross is significant due to the protective power associated with the symbol at the time. Therefore, it is clear that the object was used to protect the wearer from dangerous demons and illnesses. Similar crosses have been found in the Balkans, including one from Sirmium (B. Pitarakis, Les croix-reliquaires pectorales byzantines en bronze, no. 162), indicating the popularity of the design and the widespread use of everyday spiritual objects. Given the similarity of the designs between our pendant cross and the Sirmium cross, and the fact that our cross was suspected to be from Bulgaria, we might also apply the same date, 10th–11th century.
The unnamed figure inscribed on the front of our cross also added to the protective qualities of the pendant. Images of holy individuals were believed to possess the power of the person, further aiding in the pendant’s intercessory and protective qualities. Although, upon first glance, a viewer might ascribe the object's lack of detail to unskilled workmanship, further examination proves otherwise. The vague nature of the figure allows for versatility as the wearer can ascribe and ask for intercessions from any holy person that they wish. The figure is abstracted, allowing the owner to fill in the details, thus establishing a deeper personal connection between the person and the conduit of their spiritual life. Overall, the versatile design made the object appealing to all demographics throughout society.
John A. Cotsonis, Byzantine Figural Processional Crosses (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1994).
Helen C. Evans, and William D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).
Liz James, “Senses and Sensibility in Byzantium,” Art History 27 (2004): 522–537.
Asen Kirin, ed. Sacred Art, Secular Context: Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC (Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, 2005).
Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers, Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989).
Brigitte Pitarakis, Les croix-reliquaires pectorales byzantines en bronze (Paris: Picard, 2006).
Brigitte Pitarakis, "The Material Culture of Childhood in Byzantium," in Becoming Byzantine: Children and Childhood in Byzantium (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2009).
Gary Vikan, “Sacred Image, Sacred Power,” in Late Antique and Medieval Art of the Mediterranean World, ed. Eva R. Hoffman (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007), 135–146.
James Whitley, “Agency in Greek Art,” in A Companion to Greek Art, eds Tyler Jo Smith and Dimitris Plantzos (Malden, MA: Wiley, 2013), 579–595.
Madeline Russell ('24) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Documents
2020.86 - back.jpeg (1823 kB)
2020.86-scale.JPG (4648 kB)
2020.86 - oblique 2.jpeg (1766 kB)
2020.86 - side back.jpeg (1384 kB)
2020.86 - side.jpeg (1660 kB)
2020.86 -oblique.jpeg (2035 kB)