By George and Isabel Henderson
Paper given at the Staffordshire Hoard Symposium, held at the British Museum, March, 2010
Introduction: As the full gamut of decorative forms on the various items of the Hoard come to be assessed, what light may we expect the Hoard to shed on the chronology of Insular illuminated manuscripts, or at any rate on their likely liaisons with one another and the drift of stylistic developments within them? It is generally agreed that in their use of motifs, and in their basic principles of design, metalwork and manuscripts in Britain in the early-medieval period mesh into one another, for example, to put it at its most simplistic, in the Ardagh chalice and the Lindisfarne Gospels. An interesting suggestion has recently been aired that very early decorative practice in manuscript art may underlie some of the most accomplished pieces from Sutton Hoo, rather than necessarily the other way round. Hitherto, of course, Sutton Hoo has been the principal focus for comparisons between metalwork and the manuscripts. The discovery of the Prittlewell burial chamber has been said to undermine supposed certainties about Sutton Hoo’s material remains and context. However, the character of the finds are a very reasonable match for Bede’s historical record of Essex in very early Christian times, in the person of Saba.