Roman, 250 - 400
Gold, garnet, emerald, glass
The repoussé medallion of this gold necklace shows a frontal bust of a middle-aged woman flanked by personifications of victory, who crown her with wreaths. The crowning figures, the woman's pose, and the jewelry she wears, especially the diadem, suggest that she is a member of the imperial family, possibly Aelia Flacilla, wife of emperor Theodosius I. If this identification is correct, the medallion portrait dates to the 380s A.D. With its simplified facial detail, drilled staring eyes, and large head, the portrait is typical of the iconic style of much Late Roman art. The medallion was reworked a few decades after it was made: the outer frame with the settings holding the garnets and blue and green glass, the three pendant chains, and the two side rings are all later additions.
The chain of the necklace is rope-like, and the hook-and-eye clasp is decorated with openwork circlets as well as filigree and granulation. The chain shows particularly fine workmanship; the medallion does not. The discrepancy reveals that the two pieces were not created as a unit but nevertheless were joined in antiquity.