Pair of earrings with maenad heads

2nd–1st century BCE
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General Description

Toward the end of the 4th century BCE, new shapes and materials were introduced to Greek jewelry. In addition to animal-head motifs, decoration with large female heads also became a widespread type. These earrings are among the last examples of the use of human heads in Greek jewelry, and they illustrate how, in the late Hellenistic period, figural motifs become mere decorative ornaments.

These earrings feature a female head worked in the round and 3 globular beads of colored glass alternating with plain, spool-shaped cuffs. A circlet supporting a line of granules and a length of twisted wire form a complete hoop. The female head, most likely that of a maenad, wears large ivy leaves in the hair and a ribbon with a tendril scroll across the forehead. The hollow head is made from two halves of sheet gold. Two lines of granulation form the base of the neck. At the back of the head, the end of the twisted wire can be inserted between two loops to form a hinge.

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), 62-63, 134.