Collection Highlights: Antiquities
The Alfred Jewel
Anglo-Saxon, gold, enamel, and rock crystal, 6.2 cm long, (max.) 3.1 cm wide, 1.3 cm deep. AN1836 P. 135.371.
The gold frame bears the openwork inscription +Aelfred mec heht gewyrcan ('Alfred ordered me to be made'), suggesting strongly the association with King Alfred the Great (871–99 AD). The seated figure holding the flowers is thought to represent the sense of sight, an allusion which corresponds with the function currently favoured for the jewel – that of a terminal or handle for an aestel or pointer for following the text of a manuscript. King Alfred distributed precious aestels with copies of his translation of Pope Gregory's Pastoral care. The jewel was found in 1693 at Newton Park, four miles south of Athelney, Somerset, an area associated with Alfred, and bequeathed by Nathaniel Palmer in 1718. It has long been amongst the handful of objects, if not the object, that most compels the fascination of visitors.
England (Gallery 41), 2nd Floor, Case P307