Bronze Hairpin

Object: 297
JIAAW, Wagner Collection

The Joukowsky Institute is fortunate enough to have two hairpins, one made of bone and the other of bronze, in its collection. This Virtual Vault entry, the second in a series featuring each of the two hairpins in the vault, is about Object 297, the bronze hairpin.

This object is a thin, pointed bronze hairpin adorned with a flat finial in the shape of a bird. A closer look reveals that the bird was created with a punch pattern and is decorated with hammered circles. While the exact age of this hairpin is unknown, it is old enough for green patina to have developed over time, a sign of the natural oxidation of the bronze material. 

Hairpins that are aesthetically similar to Object 297 have been identified as ancient Roman and Greek artifacts. Although this particular hairpin might not be ancient, its design offers insight into the relationship that ancient people had with nature. In his book Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words, Jeremy Mynott describes the various ways in which ancient Greeks and Romans interacted and related with birds. Birds were not only resources for farming and hunting, but were treated as pets, agents, and friends. The ancient practice of augury further demonstrates the importance of birds in the ancient world. The Romans especially paid close attention to the calls, movements, behaviors, and appearances of birds to anticipate the likelihood of certain events. In this way, birds acted as omens from the gods, allowing for deities to communicate with earthly people and demonstrate approval or disapproval of their actions. It’s no wonder that birds showed up as decorative elements in ancient wares and jewelry, including hairpins like Object 297.

-Jinette Jimenez ‘21

Read more about ancient birds and see other examples of hairpins:

Greek & Roman Mythology – Tools

AUGURES Deprecated: Function split() is deprecated in /www/www-ccat/data/classics/myth/php/tools/dictionary.php on line 64 [not probably, from avis, a bird, but from a lost word, aug-o, to tell; so “declarers” or “tellers”]. A priestly collegium at Rome, the establishment of which was traditionally ascribed to Romulus.

Roman Bronze Hairpin with bird – 105 mm

Roman Bronze Hairpin with bird as adornment – 105mm Material: bronze Dated: 1st-3rd century Roman Empire Europe Country: France Dimensions: 105 mm Weight: 6.32 g. Condition: good condition. Registered and insured shipping Use the pictures to form your own impression. Origin: The seller warrants that this lot has been acquired in a legal manner.

The Ancient Art of Augury

Patterns exist throughout nature. For people ages ago, such things were considered messages from the gods. Decoding these encrypted communications was at the heart of ancient divination, a common practice of early civilizations. Divination methods in antiquity varied in scope. Nearly anything could be viewed as an expression of divine will and available for interpretation,…

Hair Pin | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Early medieval Bronze ancient hairpin with bird – 11*1.5 cm

Very beautiful Bronze ancient hairpin with bird. Weight – 5.08 grams The object is worthy of your attention! Provenance: The seller of this lot hereby guarantees that this object was obtained legally. It was purchased in Rome, Italy in 2011. Bought at an antique market in Porta Portese from the old collection of the 1970s.

Pin with a Dove Finial (Getty Museum)

Pin with a Dove Finial; Unknown; Etruria; 525-400 B.C.; Gold; 7.7 × 0.8 × 0.5 cm (3 1/16 × 5/16 × 3/16 in.); 96.AM.256; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman; Rights Statement: No Copyright – United States