Haydn’s agate pin

This miniature violin case holds a tiny gem: a gold breast pin worn by composer Joseph Haydn.

The pin is made from a 1st Century BC Roman sealstone, later set into a gold brooch. In the ancient world sealstones were used as markers of identity. Their motifs often reflected their owner’s profession. Haydn’s sealstone is fittingly decorated with a musical instrument: Apollo’s lyre, set between two dolphins and a bull.

The pin’s humorously designed storage case is thought to date to Haydn’s time and was possibly made specially. Haydn later gave the pin to his pupil, the composer Neukomm. It was acquired by the UL as part of the Haydn collection of the musicologist Marion Scott.

Banded agate sealstone set into a gold pin with red violin-shaped box
1st Century BC & [?] 18th Century BCE
Northern Italy

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