Pair of ear pendants

2nd century BCE
more object details

General Description

In contrast to Greek animal-head earrings (1991.75.62.a-b, 1991.75.63.a-b) created in the late 4th century BCE, the equally popular pendant earrings already had a long history by that time. The earliest examples date to the 6th century BCE. In the 4th century BCE, when the type enjoyed its principal vogue, pieces became more and more elaborate and enriched. During the following two centuries, the basic scheme remained unchanged: a decorative disk hides the ear wire and supports a pointed pendant. This simple scheme allowed numerous elaborations.

In this elaborate pair, each ear pendant consists of a central rosette and a decorative border crowned by a palmette, with a heart-shaped empty box setting. Suspended to the disk is a large pendant in the form of a winged female figure, a striding Nike who stands on a square base, flanked by multicolored beaded tassels: several chains with coiled wire and colored beads made from green glass, garnet, and carnelian. One figure is turned to the right, the other to the left. On the figure facing right, the chiton falls over the right shoulder and opens on the same side. The arrangement is reversed on the other figure. Pointed wings are attached behind the shoulders. This pair of ear pendants was allegedly found with a plaque depicting a female bust (1991.75.74.2) and a pair of small masks (1991.75.74.3, 1991.75.74.4)

Miniature sculptures like these, often of outstanding quality, continued to play an important role in Hellenistic jewelry. Despite being slightly damaged, the striding Nike figures rival contemporary large-scale sculpture in artistic quality. Still very much in the best late Classical tradition, they date to the early 2nd century BCE. Beginning in this period, goldsmiths put little figures on small pedestals, underscoring the image of a large-scale piece of art. Because of such bases, some figural pendants have been interpreted as imitations of large monuments. When worn, these earrings would have dangled and moved and were certainly an indicator of wealth and taste. Similar complex earrings, with dangling figures of Eros, are also included in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection (1995.25.a-b).

Adapted from

  • Barbara Deppert-Lippitz, Ancient Gold Jewelry at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art in association with the University of Washington Press, 1996), 64-5, 143.
  • Anne Bromberg, "Eros earrings," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 30.
  • Anne R. Bromberg and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 119.

Fun Facts

  • Nike is the Greek goddess of strength, speed, and victory and is one of the most commonly portrayed figures on Greek and Roman coins.

Web Resources

  • Khan Academy
    Watch a short video about the monumental Hellenistic sculpture, the _Nike of Samothrace, _in the collection of the Louvre, and compare to the smaller version of Nike seen on these earrings.