Enamelling was a popular decorative technique in the ancient Roman Empire during the first to third century AD. It was used to embellish small, bronze, ornamental objects such as brooches, rings, and studs. Various enamelling techniques were used across the Roman Empire including champlevé enamelling across Britain, amongst the Romano-Celtic population, and millefiori in Gaul. The various different techniques stem largely from how the metal surfaces were prepared, ready for the enamel. Millefiori, meaning ‘a thousand flowers’, involved bundles of thin glass rods, of various colours, fused together and then drawn out. They were then cut into slices and fused onto a base of coloured enamel. Most likely this technique derived from glass-making practices seen across the Roman Empire.
Roman Bronze Appliqué with Millefiori Decoration
A cast bronze circular Roman appliqué decorated extensively with millefiori enamelling to the front. The large circular body features four large peripheral, discoid lobes, perforated in the centre and used as attachments. They are intersected by four smaller lobes, featuring a yellow, ochre enamel inlay. The central discoid body features six concentric bands, bordered with copper alloy, and decorated with varying millefiori enamelling in hues of blue, red, white and yellow. The largest band to the outside edge features a fragmentary blue pattern, filled with two parallel rows of white squares intersected with a red cross. The second band is predominantly red in colour and is decorated with blue and white checkerboards. The third band features a white base, interspersed with a blue floral pattern with a central red dot.The fourth band is a solid yellow enamel, echoing the style of the smaller perforated lobes. The smallest band echoes the first in colouring and pattern – using the same blue and white square design. Within the centre of the appliqué is another solid yellow enamel circle. The reverse is undecorated and features a central raised knob. Most likely this piece was used as ornamentation on a horse harness or horse trappings.
Condition: Very fine, with some enamalling missing to the largest band and some general wear. Some patination.