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Sutton Hoo belt buckle

Object number: ROMGH.1998.27

Type: Poster

Material: Crayon, Paper, Pencil

Width: 53.1cm | Height: 83.8cm

Production date: 1946 - 1968

 Yes you can     No you cannot
Use the same Celtic patterns in your art and craft work Yes
Use this design for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Commercially reproduce this object without the permission of the Copyright holder No

In this drawing Bain is exploring the use of knotwork on an iconic Anglo-Saxon gold belt buckle. He is focussing on the two opposing snakes that fill the loop of the buckle. The craftsman needed their tails to end by the buckle. Bain shows that the repetitive pattern of their bodies had to be altered to fit into the available space. 

Bain explored the use of single strand, never-ending knotwork when writing Celtic Art, Methods of Construction. He studied continuous borders in illuminated gospel books and other sources. And Bain saw that the design on the Sutton Hoo buckle loop included similar knotwork techniques. The loops and twists repeat time and time again. So, in the corner of this drawing, Bain shows exactly how to create a single continuous knotwork strand. It’s based on the principle of an odd number of bends along one of the panel edges.

This buckle fuses elements from early medieval Irish, Pictish, Northumbrian, Anglian and other cultures. Bain was fascinated by such parallels between various ancient art forms. And it’s clear that he very much appreciated that this Celtic ‘insular’ art of the British Isles is special.

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 40 Plate E

Author: Alastair Morton

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