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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Plaque with Three Roundels of Saints Peter, Paul and Andrew
Work Type
10th-12th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Byzantine period, Middle
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

overall: 5.8 x 16.8 cm (2 5/16 x 6 5/8 in.)
roundels: 4.9 cm (1 15/16 in.)
Technical Details

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

Technical Observations: The patina is brown and green. The object features a pre-burial abrasion and scratching on high relief areas.

The plaque was formed from metal sheet, with repoussé relief work. The design was executed with linear and circular punches, forming ridges in the back of the sheet. The front surfaces were then abraded smooth, removing and smoothing ridges of metal raised during the punch work. A band of solder inside the four edges on the back suggests it was originally attached to another metal surface.

Tony Sigel (submitted 1999)

Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: in Greek, Ο Α(ΓΙΟϹ) ΠΑΒΛΟC [St. Paul]; Ο Α(ΓΙΟϹ) ΠΕΤΡΟC [St. Peter]; Ο Α(ΓΙΟϹ) ΑΝΔΡΕΑC [St. Andrew]
    [The initial letters "Ο Α(ΓΙΟϹ)" are rendered in ligature.]


Recorded Ownership History
Nelson Goodman, Weston, MA, gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1995.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Nelson Goodman
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The plaque, executed in repoussé, depicts three male busts encircled by medallions. Each figure is nimbed and holds a book in his left hand. Inscriptions in Greek, from left to right around the heads, identify the figures as St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Andrew. The saints are depicted following traditional Byzantine iconographic conventions: Paul is an older man with thinning hair and a pointed beard; Peter wears curly bangs and a short beard; Andrew, the youngest of the three, has thick hair and a pointed beard. Paul and Peter make a gesture of blessing with their right hands; Andrew holds a long cross.

Solder on the back of the plaque indicates that it was originally attached to another metal surface. It is possible that the relief decorated a reliquary. No middle Byzantine examples of bronze reliquaries survive (1). However, middle Byzantine silver-gilt reliquaries commonly feature medallion portraits of saints, executed in repoussé, enamel, or a combination of both (2). The same three apostles—with the addition of St. James between Peter and Andrew—are carved on the side of a tenth-century Byzantine ivory reliquary box (3). Peter, Paul, and Andrew are also represented side by side on two Byzantine ivory triptychs dated to the tenth- to eleventh-centuries (4). A middle Byzantine date for this plaque is supported by these comparisons in other media, as well as the presence of Andrew, who only rarely appears in early Byzantine art, but is depicted more frequently on tenth- to eleventh- century ivories (5).
Patterns of wear on the faces of the saints may indicate ritual touching of the sacred figures; alternatively, this deterioration—isolated to the areas of highest relief—may be the result of wear from handling of the object that the plaque originally decorated.


1. The closest comparison in metal is a sixth-century Byzantine iron mold with roundels published in L. Wamser and G. Zahlhaas, Rom und Byzanz: Archäologische Kostbarkeiten aus Bayern, exh. cat., Prähistorischen Staatssammlung, Munich; Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (Munich, 1998) no. 23. See also an early Byzantine silver reliquary with saints in Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art Third to Seventh Century, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1977) no. 572.

2. See H. C. Evans and W. D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1997) nos. 39 (repoussé), 37 and 38 (enamel), and 40 (repoussé and enamel).

3. Ibid., no. 78.

4. Ibid., nos. 79-80.

5. J. Irmscher et al., “Andrew,” in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 1, ed. A. P. Kazhdan (New York, 1991) 92.

Diliana Angelova

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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