Romano-British Swimming Duck Bronze Brooch


A finely cast Romano-British bronze water-bird-shaped brooch, decorated with enamelling. It features a smooth, naturalistically rendered oval body that resembles a swimming duck. Its body is hollow-cast, with opposing triangular lozenges running vertically down the ridged spine. The bird’s colourful feathers are indicated through the use of crescental cells, inlaid with dark blue and yellow enamel. The head of the bird is gently curved and features a now-empty eye socket, which would have once held a speck of enamel. The chain loop at its tail and the bottom of the pin catch are now lost.

Date: Circa 2nd century AD
Provenance: From a Surrey gentleman's collection (DG), purchased on the London Art Market from an ADA member, formed 1990's onward.
Condition: Very fine condition. The chain loop at its tail and the bottom of the pin catch are now lost. Original pin still intact.


In the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, fibulae (or brooches) were originally used  for fastening garments. They came in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety pin principle. The Etruscans were very fond of fibulae, some of which were very large and decorated with elaborate granulation and processions of animals in relief. Roman conquests spread the use of the fibula, which became the basis for more complicated brooches. By the Middle Ages, the Roman safety pin type of fibula had fallen into disuse.

Birds were a common decorative theme across the Roman Empire and were especially popular as a fibula design. Amongst the repertoire of zoomorphic brooches, birds and mammals are by far the largest group. Amongst this, swimming birds, such as this example are also common.

Weight 6.7 g
Dimensions L 3 x W 1.6 x H 1.5 cm



You may also like…