Petrie Crown
Description, History: Celtic La Tene Style Bronze Metalwork.

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The Petrie Crown
(National Museum of Ireland)

For details of the development
of metalwork among the Ancient
Celts, which culminated in the
masterpieces of the late La Tene
period and Hiberno-Saxon
Insular style, please see:
Celtic Art, Early Style
Celtic Coins Art
Celtic Art, Wadalgesheim Style
Celtic Art, Late European Style
Celtic Art in Britain and Ireland
Celtic Style Christian Art

Celtic metalworking exemplifies
numerous Celtic designs - many
influenced by Greek and Etruscan
artists - developed by craftsmen
among the Ancient Celts.

Celtic Weapons Art
Celtic Jewellery Art

Petrie Crown (c.100 BCE - 200 CE)

Discovered in County Cork, the Petrie Crown - named after its former owner, the Irish antiquarian George Petrie - along with the Broighter Gold Collar and Boat, is another masterpiece of early Celtic metalwork art from the Iron Age (100 BCE - 200 CE). Part of an elaborate horned head-dress, this exquisite piece of pagan goldsmithery was created in the La Tene style, using repoussé embossing and cloisonné enamelling, derived from Etruscan and Greek forms. It exhibits the repetitive symmetrical design popular with both Hallstatt and La Tene craftsmen.


A wonderful example of Celtic Iron Age metalwork, the Petrie Crown is composed of numerous bronze pieces connected with rivets. A circular bronze band forms the basic core, to whose outer circumference is attached a number of concave roundels or circular discs, decorated with triskeles or spiral designs centred with birds' heads, and beadwork. As well as the discs, there is another set of riveted attachments, namely a series of goblet-shaped bronze pieces, and a single hollow conical-shaped horn (although marks indicate that a second horn was also part of the original assembly). The horn itself appears to have been cut from a bronze sheet before being beaten and rolled into shape. The bird shapes on the cone were originally filled with red cloisonné enamel, as were settings in the bosses on the discs, one of which still has an enamel stud.

Celtic Designwork

The curvilinear patterns on the crown derive from a harmony of traditional Celtic La Tene designs, including sun symbols, influenced by Etruscan and Greek motifs. They employ lotus-bud and palmette imagery, including sinuous trumpet forms terminating in lentoid bosses, along with spirals ending in three types of birds heads. The latter are very similar to motifs which appear on Celtic "Dragonesque" brooches found in northern Britain.

Part of George Petrie's Collection

The Petrie Crown - which incidentally is not considered by some scholars to have been used as a headpiece - used to be part of a collection of artifacts deriving from Celtic culture, owned by George Petrie, the Irish antiquary, archaeologist and artist of the nineteenth century. He oversaw the Royal Irish Academy's acquisition of many illuminated Irish manuscripts, including a version of the Annals of the Four Masters, as well as examples of Hiberno-Saxon Insular metalwork, such as the Cross of Cong. His expertise on early Irish archaeology and architecture, particularly his book 'The Round Towers of Ireland', earned him the nickname "the father of Irish archaeology". The Petrie Crown now resides in the National Museum of Ireland and is one of the great artifacts in the early history of Irish art.

Other examples of great Celtic metalwork include: the Derrynaflan Chalice, the Ardagh Chalice and the Moylough Belt Shrine, as well as the renowned bronze encased crosses like the 8th/9th century Tully Lough Cross and the great 12th century Cross of Cong, commissioned by Turlough O'Connor, High King of Ireland.

• For information about art and crafts in Ireland, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For our main arts index, see: Homepage.

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