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Lot 1034: Viking Serpent Bound Loki Stirrup Mount

Antiquities: Day 2

by TimeLine Auctions

December 7, 2016

Harwich, United Kingdom

Live Auction
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Description: 11th century AD. A bronze openwork stirrup mount of Williams's Class A Type 3, with facing nude male figure held by serpents, restraining the elbows and knees and forming an arc from the shoulders and neck to the wrists; attachment loop above the head, small ledge to the reverse with ferrous stain above. Cf. Williams, D. Late Saxon Stirrup-Strap Mounts, York, 1997, p.37. 34 grams, 61mm (2 1/2"). Found Leicestershire, UK. There are several figures in the Viking mythology that can be related to this iconography. One of the possibility is Loki, a cunning trickster known from many poems to be both friend and enemy of gods and giants. As a punishment for his crimes, gods killed his son and bounded Loki with his entrails, and Skadi, a giantess with a personal interest in his punishment, put a poisonous snake above his head dropping venom on his face. His faithful wife Sigyn, sat next to him and gathered the poison in a bowl. This imprisonment should have lasted until ragnarok, the final battle between gods and giants, when Loki would break free, and die in a fight with god Heimdall. Another possibility is that this mount may represent one of the most famous heroes of the Viking Age, Ragnar Lodbrok; who, according to the legend, died in a pit full of snakes by an order of king Ælla of Northumbria. A similar death was meant for legendary hero Gunnarr, known from the cycle of Nibelungs. A man in a snake pit can be found carved on the door of Urnes church and baptismal in Bohuslan. Similar earlier depictions can be seen on picture stones from Gotland, where a male figure is surrounded with snakes, usually approached by a woman holding a drinking horn. A similar image can be found on the Gosforth cross, considered by many to be a depiction of Loki and Sigyn. A hall from snake bodies is also supposed to be located in Helheim, the land of dead.

Condition Report: Fine condition.

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