Eastern Mediterranean, Syria or Palestine
1 3/16 × 1 3/8 in. (3 × 3.5 cm)
0.3 oz. (8.9 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Julia Schottlander (Tetragon) in London on October 16, 1993. Schottlander described this pendant as “Early Byzantine Magical Pendant, Turkey” on the hand-written receipt. Schottlander operated a London-based gallery called Tetragon. She was born May 1955 and was a dealer in antiques, particularly small Byzantine antiques. There is no date other than Early Byzantine given. No previous owners reported. The object does not fit within any of the acquisition standards set by the AAM, AAMD, and the 1970 UNESCO Convention. There is very little documentation on the pendant. There is no documentation that proves the object was in the US or out of Turkey by November 17th, 1970. On March 24th, 2021, the US and Turkey made a bilateral agreement to restrict the imports of certain types of archaeological and ethnological material from Turkey. The only elaboration I found on the “certain types” is objects from certain sites specified on the website. Because there is no site information on where the object was found, it is unclear if international law was broken.
The pendant is mostly smooth around the edge with the exception of a couple of dents on the end opposite of the suspension hole. On the Holy Rider side, there is more severe corrosion at the bottom-left area, below the horse. On the Saint Thekla side, there is a circular corroded divot in the middle with some corrosion on the bottom and right side. September 2022. - Sarah Hoffman ('24)
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
The inscription displayed along the edge of the medallion on the side with the rider:
ἅγιε Σισίνιε βοήθει(?)…
“St. Sisinnios help…”
The inscription displayed along the edge of the medallion on the side with the individual figure:
Θεοτόκε βοήθει τῷ φορῶντι
"Theotokos help the wearer."
The inscription next to the central figure:
An alternate reading of this inscription:
This thin Byzantine pendant features images and Greek inscriptions on both sides. On one side is a common Byzantine iconography, known as the Holy Rider. The Holy Rider is an image of a man atop a horse who bears a lance topped by a cross. It shows him impaling a figure below the feet of the horse. Around the image is the partially legible Greek inscription that reads “Saint Sisinnos help…” The Holy Rider iconography is known to be magical and can provide the wearer of the pendent with wealth, power, and prosperity. On the other side is an image and written title of Saint Thekla. She is depicted as a woman with a tunic, a veil over her head, and a halo. She is usually depicted holding a cross, but due to corrosion this detail is difficult to learn. Saint Thekla was a pagan-turned-Christian, living in the first century AD, who was inspired by Saint Paul’s words. She vowed a promise of chastity and defied many odds in order to give her life to Christ.
Sarah Hoffman ('24) for ARHS 291 Museum Object (Fall 2022).
One side of this pendant features the image of a Holy Rider defeating an enemy with a cross-topped spear. An inscription reading "Saint Sissinnios help…" encircles the image of the rider. On the other side, there is an image of Saint Thekla encircled by the inscription "Lord help the wearer". Another inscription next to the central figure says "St. Thekla." The pendant has tremendous religious value. The holy rider is an image symbolizing military might and protection. Saint Thekla, when she converted to Christianity, was persecuted by her village and they attempted to burn her at the stake. Through her faith in God, the fire did not affect her. The imagery on the pendant, therefore, provides protection above all else, sending the message that through faith, God will protect the wearer.
In terms of production, bronze items like this pendant were mass produced using stone molds. From looking at pendants with similar iconography, we can speculate that this pendant was likely made between the 6th and 7th century in Syria or Palestine. One similar pendant is held by the Harvard Art Museums (no. 1922.214.171.1248). It portrays the Holy Rider attacking an enemy below his horse with a spear. The pendant is thought to be from between the 5th and 7th century and is very similar to the pendant in the Blick-Harris Study Collection. These objects were worn as amulets for protection.
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).
Anna Kartsonis, “Protection against All Evil: Function, Use and Operation of Byzantine Historiated Phylacteries,” Byzantinische Forschungen 20 (1994): 73-102.
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).
William Henshaw ('24) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Documents
2020.114_001.jpg (1151 kB)
Holy Rider side
2020.114_002.jpg (1029 kB)
2020.114-scale.JPG (4959 kB)