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Title: The iconography of early Anglo-Saxon coinage (6th-8th centuries)
Author: Gannon, A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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This work is an art-historical appraisal of Anglo-Saxon coinage, from its inception in the late sixth century to Offa's second reform of the penny c.792, and covers all known designs, with several unpublished types. Artistically, this is the most vibrant period of English coinage, with die-cutters showing flair and innovation and employing hundreds of different designs in their work, mirroring the dialectic tension between the old and new order and the changes occurring in Anglo Saxon England. In this iconographical analysis the designs are divided into four main categories: busts (including attributes and drapery), human figures, animals and geometrical patterns, with prototypes, sources of the repertoire and parallels with contemporary visual arts illustrated for each motif. The comparisons demonstrate that coins played a central role in the eclectic visual culture of the time, with the advantages of official sanctioning and wide circulation to support and diffuse new ideas and images. The sources of the motifs clarify the relationship between the many designs of the Secondary phase (c. 710-50), suggesting some cross-border conformity in the iconography. Contemporary literature and theological and writings offer the key to the interpretation of several motifs, hinting at a universal preoccupation with religious themes. Coins from Canterbury (Series K) appear to be linked together in that they represent the Five Senses, more than a century and a half before the Fuller Brooch. The richness of motifs and display of learning point to a sophisticated patronage with access to exotic prototypes, excellent craftsmanship and wealth. It is suggested that ministers, as rich, learned and well-organised institutions, may be behind some of the coinage. After the economic crises of the mid-seventh century this flamboyant iconography was swept away with Offa's reforms of the coinage. Coins were issued bearing his name and title, and the designs, whilst still of high quality, are either busts or purely geometrical.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available