Ireland, Tara Brooch
The entry at the National Museum of Ireland for the Tara Brooch states that- "This brooch was found not in Tara but near the seashore at Bettystown, Co. Meath, in 1850. Its provenance was attributed to Tara by a dealer in order to increase its value. It is made of cast and gilt silver and is elaborately decorated on both faces. The front is ornamented with a series of exceptionally fine gold filigree panels depicting animal and abstract motifs that are separated by studs of glass, enamel and amber. The back is flatter than the front, and the decoration is cast. The motifs consist of scrolls and triple spirals.
As with such treasures as the Ardagh Chalice and the Derrynaflan Paten, the Tara Brooch can be considered to represent the pinnacle of early medieval Irish metalworkers' achievement. Each individual element of decoration is executed perfectly and the range of technique represented on such a small object is astounding."
The original has been dated to the 8th century.
Having been found in Co. Meath, it was then sold to a dealer and then to the Dublin jeweller George Waterhouse who was already producing Celtic Revival jewellery and who renamed it the "Tara Brooch" to make it more appealing.
Celtic Revival jewellery had become very fashionable over the previous decade, and the discovery of the brooch could hardly have been better timed from this point of view. The brooch was immediately recognised as the culminating masterpiece of the Irish development of large and superbly worked ornate brooches, a status it has retained ever since. Waterhouse used it as the centre of displays of his replicas and imitations of Celtic brooches in his Dublin shop, also exhibiting it at The Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and the Paris Exposition Universelle, as well as the Dublin exhibition visited by the Queen in 1853. Waterhouse had invented the brooch's name, choosing to link it to the site associated with the High Kings of Ireland, "fully aware that this would feed the Irish middle-class fantasy of being descended from them."
Copies became very fashionable, particularly in 1851 when Queen Victoria purchased a copy of the Brooch at the Great Exhibition in London.
In 1879 Edmond Johnson, one of Dublin's foremost goldsmiths, started restoration work on the Ardagh Chalice and was later given permission to make copies of it and other objects. The replicas were much sought after with Johnson's own catalogue listing the Chicago (1893), Paris (1900) and Glasgow (1901) expositions as well as the principle museums of America, Great Britain and the Continent among his clients.
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