Earring with bust of the Virgin

The earring is made from two identical gold sheets soldered together. The hook is horseshoe-shaped. The decoration is in repousse technique, while some details and the inscriptions are engraved.

At the lower edge is a broad band bordered by a fine molding, twisted wire and fourteen hemispherical bosses. At the center, outside the band is a circular medallion with a cut-out bust of the Virgin orans. The medallion is joined to the band by two drop-shaped elements, each bearing one hemispherical and one drop-shaped knob. Above the medallion is a cross of Maltese type with the incised inscription. The hook is inserted in two globular loops.

There is a pair of identical earrings, both in shape and size, as well as the inscription, in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. They were probably produced in the same Constantinopolitan (?) Workshop.

There is also another earring, almost identical but of silver, in the Canellopoulos Museum. The shape and arrangement of the decorative elements are exactly the same but in place of the Virgin is a male figure in bust, with short hair and beard (Peter?). The cross with inscription, which crowned the medallion with the bust, is missing from this piece.

Last, with regard to the form of the letter Σ in the inscription on the cross, which puzzled earlier researchers, indeed to the point of them doubting the earring’s authenticity, it should be considered as a conscious archaism of the artist.

The bust of the Theotokos displays many similarities with her effigy, also in bust, on a coin of Emperor Constantine VIII Monomachos (1042-1055). The elegant and harmonious design and the flawless execution of the earring also lead to this period or slightly earlier.

Skampavias K. 2007. Catalogue entry no, 58, in Skampavias K.—Chatzidakis N. (eds), Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum.Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Athens, 66.