12 x 1 3/8 inches
Gift of Miss Annette Finnigan
In ancient Greece, wreaths made from plants like laurel, ivy, and myrtle were awarded to athletes, soldiers, and royalty. Similar wreaths were designed in gold and silver for the same purposes or for religious functions. This example conveys the language of love.
A plant sacred to the goddess Aphrodite, myrtle was a symbol of love. Greeks wore wreaths made of real myrtle leaves at weddings and banquets, received them as athletic prizes and awards for military victories, and wore them as crowns to show royal status.
By the Hellenistic period (300–30 BC), the wreaths were made of gold foil; too fragile to be worn, they were created primarily to be buried with the dead as symbols of life’s victories. The naturalistic myrtle leaves and blossoms on this wreath were cut from thin sheets of gold, exquisitely finished with stamped and incised details, and then wired onto the stems. Most that survive today were found in graves.