Roman Bronze Bird-shaped Brooch

£ 195.00

A Roman, zoomorphic plate brooch, made of bronze. The fibula depicts a bird, with wings outstretched in flight. The body of the bird is formed from a rectangular bronze plate, which flares at the end to form the bird’s triangular tailfeathers. Triangular cells form a recessed cavity for an enamel inlay. Remnants of red enamel can still be seen, although the majority is now lost. The tailfeathers also end in a rounded tip. Flanking the rectangular body, are two large triangular wings, also decorated with cells holding white enamel. The semi-pyramidal neck extends from the body and ends in a rounded head, although the pointed beak does now appear to be missing. The reverse of the brooch features the majority of the hinge and catch-plate.

Date: Circa 2nd - 3rd Century AD
Provenance: Ex D.K Collection, acquired circa 1980s. Auctioned by Gorny & Mosch, 17 June 2015 in Munich, lot 272. Later part of an ex Cambridge collection.
Condition: Fine condition. Green patination to the surface. Degradation of enamel decoration on the wings and possible loss of enamel on the tail panels. Pin is partially missing leaving only a small part of the hinge and catch plate.


Fibulae or brooches were originally used in Ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire for fastening garments, such as cloaks or togae. The fibula designs developed into a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. The Roman conquests resulted in a spread of Roman culture and therefore the use of the fibula, which became the basis for more complicated and highly decorated brooches, modelled in bronze, silver and gold and further enriched with precious and semi-precious gemstones. Fibulae are the most common artefact-type in burials and settlements throughout much of continental Europe.

The bird brooch above is an example of a plate brooch with a pin hinge. Birds were a common decorative theme across the Roman Empire and were especially popular as a fibula design. Amongst the repetoire of zoomorphic brooches, birds and mammals are by far the largest group. Enamelled brooches, as an accessory, became associated with the upper class and the more elaborate the brooch the higher the status of its wearer. The zoomorphic kind of brooch was typical in the British and Continental areas as many of the birds shown were either representative of native birds or ducks.

For more information on Roman animal symbolism, please see our blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art

Weight 4.71 g
Dimensions L 3.2 x W 1.9 x H 1.1 cm



Reference: For a similar item, The Corinium Museum, Cirencester, UK, item 1980/62/415

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