Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Crossbow Brooch

ca. 430
Made in Rome/Constantinople
Late Roman or Byzantine
Overall: 4 11/16 x 2 3/16 x 1 9/16 in. (11.9 x 5.5 x 4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1995
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 301
Crossbow brooches were in vogue as sumptuous imperial gifts from 280 to the mid-sixth century. One of seven extant with pierced openwork, this brooch represents an intermediate stage in the development of such objects, datable to about 480. Our example, like one from the grave of Omharus, king of the Gepids, has a Latin cross in the center of the top panel, making it overtly Christian.

The point of the pin is inserted into a socket in the brooch's foot, and the looped pinhead fits into a perforation at the back center of the head. The pinhead is released by unscrewing the left hexagonal terminal. Because of its sophistication as a mechanism, the screw became a status symbol in jewelry.
Simon Bendel, London (1964-1975); Art Market, Switzerland (1994-1995); [ Ward & Company Works of Art(Michael Ward), New York (sold 1995)]
Brown, Katharine R. "Medieval Europe." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 53, no. 2 (1995). p. 22.

Geroulanou, Aimilia. Diatrita: Gold Pierced-Work Jewelery from the 3rd to the 7th Century. Athens: Benaki Museum, 1999. no. 175, pp. 54, 235, fig. 67.

Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 36, pp. 30–31.

Brown, Katharine R., Dafydd Kidd, and Charles T. Little, ed. From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. pp. 68-69, 359, fig. 7.11-7.13.

Dandridge, Pete. "Idiomatic and Mainstream: The Technical Vocabulary of a Late Roman Crossbow Fibula." Metropolitan Museum Journal 35 (2000). pp. 71-87, pl. 1, fig. 1-14.

Deppert-Lippitz, Barbara. "A Late Antique Crossbow Fibula in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum Journal 35 (2000). pp. 39-70.

Eisenberg, Jerome M. "The New Byzantine Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Minerva 12, no. 3 (2001). pp. 24-25, fig. 6.

Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). p. 31.

Cormack, Robin, and Maria Vassilaki, ed. Byzantium 330–1453. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2008. no. 134, p. 412, ill. p. 179.

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