© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1992.311
Title
Torc
Classification
Jewelry
Work Type
necklace
Date
4th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Period
Iron Age
Culture
Celtic
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304396
Location
Level 3, Room 3700, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Roman Art
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
15.6 x 1 cm (6 1/8 x 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.27; Sn, 9.47; Pb, 0.07; Zn, 0.006; Fe, 0.04; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.02; Sb, 0.11; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.01; Au, less than 0.02; Cd, less than 0.002
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The greater part of the surface consists of red and green areas that have been waxed, although a few areas of shiny metal are exposed as well. The whitish residues in the recesses are probably blanched wax. Some clay-like brown remains on the inside of the terminals could be either from burial or from the mold.

The open ring shape (c. 7 mm in diameter) is devoid of decoration over around half of the central span of the ring. Each side, as it approaches the terminal, is decorated with a repeated nodular pattern modeled to resemble a sequence of alternating rounded and thin spool-shaped beads. There is a hollowed convex drum-like terminal at each end. The object was cast in one piece. Exactly how it was shaped is not clear, but the shapes seem to indicate that it was modeled in wax. The fine band on both ends of the terminals and the end of each bead is decorated with serrations. It is not clear whether these decorations were made in the wax or the metal.

The surface is worn and has oxidized to a dark brown in some areas. Some of the corrosion products seem to have been removed mechanically. The metal is abraded flat to bare metal in the center of the undecorated area and preserves coarse file marks that run generally in the direction of the ring, with a few larger file marks running across it.


Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Provenance
[Sotheby’s, New York, June 25, 1992, lot 93], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, David M. Robinson Fund
Accession Year
1992
Object Number
1992.311
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This circular torc is decorated with ten raised bead shapes and two large, hollow drum-shaped terminals. Approximately one-half of the circumference is undecorated. The lower portion, near the terminals, consists of five beads separated by saddle shapes. Additional curvilinear decoration appears on some of the beads. The terminals have an oblate shape, and there is some accretion material visible in the concavities. On the back of the terminals are hatched lines that extend up to the last raised ridge. The top and bottom of the terminals are encircled by raised bands with vertical incision marks, giving the bands a rope-like appearance.

The overall decoration and sizes of bracelets 1992.312, 1992.313, 1992.314, and 1992.315, along with this torc, are similar enough to each other that these objects could have been made in the same workshop, perhaps by the same artisan. A very similar torc and bracelets were found in a tomb at Mainz-Linsenberg and are dated to the fourth century BCE (1).

Torcs were an ornament, generally worn around the neck, by men and women as well as gods. (2). Although torcs were used over a broad geographical area and temporal period, ancient authors mention them with relative frequency in relation to groups of people traditionally identified as Celts (3).

NOTES:

1. See H.-E. Joachim, “The Rhineland,” in The Celts, eds. S. Moscati et al., exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice (London, 1991) 261-64, esp. 262.

2. For instance, the famous statue of the Dying Gaul in the Musei Capitolini, Rome, wears only a torc. For images of a deity wearing a torc, see P. F. Bober, “Cernunnos: Origin and Transformation of a Celtic Divinity,” American Journal of Archaeology 55.1 (1951): 13-15 (also includes references to female deities wearing torcs; ibid., 46-47, nos. A.11 and B.2).

3. See Propertius 4.10.44, Cicero, de Finibus 2.22 and de Officiis 3.31, and Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 9.13. The torc can also have Eastern connotations: for the two young boys on the Ara Pacis depicted wearing torcs, whose identities are open to interpretation, see C. B. Rose, “‘Princes’ and Barbarians on the Ara Pacis,” American Journal of Archaeology 94.3 (1990): 453-67; and id., “The Parthians in Augustan Rome,” American Journal of Archaeology 109.1 (2005): 21-75.


Lisa M. Anderson

Exhibition History

32Q: 3700 Roman, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu