Disc with Bees

January 31, 2007
Disc with Bees

Disc with Bees
c. 700-600 B.C.E.
Gold, diameter
1 5/8 inches, depth, 3/4 inches.
Anonymous gift

This extraordinary disc was probably worn as a pendant by a woman in the ancient Greek world. The disc has a tiny hole and is decorated with four honeybees clustered around a flower, the petals of which are now missing. The surface of the disc is articulated with chevron patterns. Although the flower and one bee have been damaged, the pendant, which is nearly 3,000 years old, is still in fairly good condition.

The bees' thoraxes, the spherical elements of the flower's stamens, the chevron designs, and the circumference of the pendant are articulated with tiny gold granules, which contrast with the smooth background and the bees' heads, wings, and abdomens. This decorative technique, called granulation, starts with gold that is shaved into a bed of charcoal dust. When heated, the shavings become tiny gold spheres that then may be soldered onto a surface. The granulation technique is part of an "Orientalizing" trend, showing the influence of the art of the ancient Near East (today's Middle East) that spread across much of the eastern Mediterranean in the seventh century B.C.E., including ancient Greece and Etruria, in what is now Italy.

This pendant is part of a recent bequest to the Nasher Museum of more than 200 classical works collected from the 1920s to the late 1960s. It and other works from the gift, along with selections from the existing Duke Classical Collection, will go on view in the museum's permanent collection gallery in February in an installation titled "The Past is Present: Classical Antiquities at the Nasher Museum," co-curated by Duke professors Sheila Dillon and Carla Antonaccio.