MS 5579/1


MS 5579/1
Description Boss for the upper cover of a book binding or cumdach (book shrine) for an Irish MS in bronze gilt with one amber inlay, with 8 further gem settings, Ireland 750-800, 1 circular boss diameter 7 cm, richly decorated in the style of the Book of Kells with two circular panels ornamented with interlaced snakes infilled with diagonal hatching and with large, circular eyes, the beak-like jaws biting its own torso, in the fully developed Insular style. Alternating with fields of late la Tène ornament with two-lobed scrolls, during the period when it entered manuscript art from the metalworkers' repertoire.

Most likely from the same high quality workshop as the "Steeple Bumpstead Boss", British Museum no. 1916,0705,1, permantly diplayed there since 1916, remaining the outstanding piece of Insular metalwork in British Museum. Traces of iron needle fittings for later Viking use as brooch. The original jewelled treasure bindings as well as the cumdachs of the Book of Kells and most other Irish Gospel MSS are lacking, ripped off during Viking raids on the monasteries, the metalwork and jewellery given to Viking women, mounted as brooches with iron needles.

Part of a hoard of 14 Viking and Irish iron and bronze artefacts found in Naustdal, Sunnfjord, Sogn og Fjordane ca 1885 and presented by the Schøyen Collection to the library of Oslo katedralskole in 2016.

Provenance 1. Monastery in Ireland (ca 750-850); 2. Taken by a Norwegian Viking, given to his woman in Sunnfjord, Norway (ca 850-950) and buried with her; 3. Excavated by farmer in Naustdal in Sunnfjord, Sogn og Fjordane ca 1885 and kept by his heirs (ca 1885-1990); 4. Hans Storesund, Oslo, acquired June 1990; 5. Gift from the Schøyen Collection to the library of Oslo katedralskole October 2016.
Published Susan M. Youngs (British Museum), "The Steeple Bumpstead Boss". In: R. Michael Spearman & John Higgit (eds.), The Age of Migrating Ideas. Early Medieval Art in Northern Britain and Ireland. National Museum of Scotland: Edinburgh 1993, pp. 143-150.
See also MS 5579/2, MS 5579/3 and MS 5579/4
Place of origin Ireland
Dates 750-800 AD