27 August 2011

The Negroponte Hoard, Part One

Malatesta coat-of-arm, Negroponte Hoard, BM

There is a remarkable and nearly unknown collection of jewelry in the British Museum, known as the Negroponte hoard.  It consists of 395 items (28 items are one model of silver filigree buttons, 65 another model of exquisite gold buttons), some of them important.  The collection was acquired in the late 19th-century from an Athens dealer who claimed these were all found in one hoard in Negroponte, and who made requests for secrecy.  I will write later about my opinions of that.

What has fascinated me this week is this 2.5 cm shield with alternating bands, certainly the Malatesta shield, and the same one that Pandolfo Malatesta put up in two locations in Patras. 

The Patras shields disappeared during the Italian occupation in WW2 and there has been no report of them since.  This image was taken from a photocopy of an etching of a squeeze of the shield found in the Lambros history of medieval Greece, and you may have to trust me on this.

A second shield turns up which somewhat explains the first, which is the same size as the shield in the center with reverse bands and may have been similarly used as the center of an ornament.  I do not find a photograph of it on the BM site and this one, a detail from a large mass of ornaments, is extremely difficult to make clear. The three heads are interesting: the Malatesti added three profile heads to their shields around 1385, and possibly these heads refer to those.

[Note: I have identified a third shield in a subsequent post on the collection.]

The main question I have about these two Malatesta shields is: what were they doing in Negroponte?  Cleofe Malatesta was in Mistra from the fall of 1420 to the spring of 1433.  Her brother Pandolfo was archbishop of Patras from 1424 until mid-1429.  I can think of a number of ways in which the shields might have traveled east: the explanation that convinces me will have to wait for another blog.

Below, I am supplying a series of Malatesta shields.  They vary according to the owner, but the basis for each is a pattern of  bends, sometimes checked, sometimes with suggestions of weaving.  The first three are from manuscripts reproduced in large expensive books on the Malatesti, but unidentified; the last two are from Wikipedia.

Manuscript portrait of Malatesta "dei Sonetti" Malatesti  

Tempio Malatesiano, Rimini  

Palazzo, Roberto Malatesta, Rimini

 One of Pandolfo Malatesta's emblems

Malatesta Novello, Cesena Library


I would much appreciate further information, and suggestions for specific identifications.


  1. Hello,
    the first three coat of arms arms belongs to Domenico Malatesta, Lord of Cesena, brother of the most famous Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta Lord of Rimini.


  2. Thank you. That makes their discovery in Greece even more of a problem.

  3. Hello,
    do you know how and where I can found further informations about archbishop Pandolfo's coat of arms in Patras? Thanks.


  4. That would be a wonderful research project. There were actually 2 carvings with the coat-of-arms. They were removed by the Italians during their occupation of Patras, apparently repatriating national patrimony.

    If you could find the documents of that occupation & see if there is any mention of the carvings . . . of course with the wartime destruction in Italy, so much disappeared.

    If you want more on the iconography itself, you would have to look in Pesaro-Rimini historical sources.

    Let me know what you find.

  5. I live in Rimini, I'm fond of Malatestian history (even though my studies concern subjects really different from history), specially of Malatestian heraldry.

    Here in Rimini (but also in Cesena, Pesaro, and in the other places that were ruled by this family) there are some Malatesta's coat of arms, which are different according as the branch you consider.

    I know that archbishop Pandolfo used, in his personal seal, the coat of arm with three heads. Perhaps also the Patras coat of arms was similar.

    I hope to find something about the italian occupation of Patras.


  6. Dear Diana and Luca

    I could send you a copy of some sketches (regarding the aforementioned carvings/inscriptions removed from the castle of Patras) that A. Bon published in the following work:

    Pierres inscrites ou armoriées de la franque Morée (pl.28-30)
    Antoine Bon (1966)
    Δελτίον XAE 4 (1964-1965), Περίοδος Δ'.
    Σελ. 89-102
    ΑΘΗΝΑ 1966

    My mail address is ypapanton@yahoo.gr

    Kind regards,


  7. Thanks, Yiannis. I have written you off-line.


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