Saturday, February 18, 2012

Unusual Artifacts: A Dalmatian Hairpin, 1850-1900

Hairpin of Silver
Dalmatia, 1850-1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The hairpin has been a part of a woman’s daily life since antiquity.  Though these clever little items have fallen out of favor today, in large part, they enjoyed a long and happy existence, rising above their utilitarian roots to become decorative and even coveted objects of great monetary and personal value.

Here, we see a small hairpin which dates between 1850 and 1900.  Made of cast silver, it heralds from Dalmatia, Croatia and takes the form of a bird standing on a flat vertical triangle.  The bird depicted here is thought to be a cockerel—a traditional symbol of fertility.  Such a pin would have been used to secure a headpiece to a rather complicated coiffure.

When we think of Dalmatia, we tend to have images of spotted dogs.  In the Nineteenth century Dalmatia was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—stretching from from Trieste (now in Italy) to the borders of modern Albania. 

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