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Byzantine parcel-gilt silver reliquary pendant and chain

In the form of a circular container with ribbed and beaded loop, beaded bands to each face, roundels to the edge and three lugs to seal the reliquary.  On the obverse, executed in repoussé, facing bust of Christ with cross to the halo, holding the Gospel in the left hand; on the reverse, executed in a combination of repoussé and engraving, a ‘Latin’ cross pommée on steps flanked by the legend NH-KA, an abbreviation of IC XC NIKA, ‘Jesus Christ is victorious’.  The silver chain with a swan-neck hook and eye wire closure.

Despite the archaic features of the decoration, especially the cross on steps on the reverse which is reminiscent of representations on 7th-century coinage, the workmanship of this reliquary is stylistically and technically in keeping with silverwork from the Palaeologan period in northern Greece.  Its gilding displays the characteristics of the medieval and later tradition of silversmithing in Epirus.  This was established in the late Byzantine period and has flourished there ever since, originally because of its relative proximity to the new silver mines of Srebrenica in modern Bosnia (srebro in Slavonic = silver), whose beginnings also hark back to the 14th century.  Epirus silverware is often referred to as Yannina work after the name of Epirus’ principal city.   

Northern Greece, probably Epirus

Height: 5 cm (reliquary)
Length: 55 cm (chain)
Diameter: 3.6 cm (reliquary)
Weight: 46 g

From an old German collection; acquired in Munich in the 1970s.
TimeLine Auctions, 06/12/2016, lot 439
Acquired there by AXIA