Northern Europe, Viking or Norse culture, ca. 800 to 1100 CE. A group of nine cast silver and one lead belt mounts. Eight are matched: heart-shaped, with zoomorphic faces surrounded by three leaves on one side and three pegs on the other for attachment. These faces may be dragons. A strong, round loop hangs from each. The ninth is rectangular-shaped, with similar styling and a leaf and vine pattern. Three pegs project from its other, undecorated side. The tenth is very different from the others, made of lead, with a prong, an undecorated face, and two pegs on its back. Size of largest: 0.8" W x 1.25" H (2 cm x 3.2 cm)
Norse art is known for its detailed, gorgeous ornamentation of even the most mundane objects, and the artwork on nine of these is an excellent example of this. The dragon is a common figure in Norse mythology, mentioned in the sagas, chronicles, skaldic poems, and depicted as part of the Volsung cycle in rock carvings from Norway, Sweden, and England. The dragon is always a monstrous creature intent upon harming the gods and mankind - Nidhogg gnaws at the roots of the world tree, Yggdrasil, while Jormungandr, child of the god of chaos Loki and a giantess, dwells in the ocean, frequently trying to murder mankind's protector, Thor. Finally, Fafnir was once the son of the dwarf king, cursed by a magical ring into dragon form and ultimately slain by the hero Sigurd. For all their repulsiveness, dragons were common subjects of Norse metalwork.
Provenance: private New York, USA collection
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