Rijksmuseum acquires rare 16th century archers chain

Archers chain of the Saint George guild of Zevenbergen (Picture: Rijksmuseum). (Archers chain of the Saint George guild of Zevenbergen (Picture: Rijksmuseum))

The Rijksmuseum has acquired a very rare archer chain from the Middle Ages. The silver chain was made around 1525 - 1546 in Bergen op Zoom or Breda and was awarded to the winner of the annual shooting contest, the museum announced on Wednesday.

"It is a great example of the high quality of silversmithing from that period", according to the museum. The chain comes from the possession of the French Rothschild family and its purchase was made possible by a private collector.

The chain is richly decorated with oak branches and various symbols, which according to the museum, show who it once belonged to. There is Saint George and the Dragon, referring to the patron saint of the guild of archers and seven mountains depict that the guild was established in Zevenbergen. The remaining symbols indicate the guild's task - defense of church and state. Oak leaves for "steadfastness in the faith" and birds for "loyalty to church and state".

The chain disappeared from the Netherlands in the Late 19th century when it was bought Alphonse James de Rothschild. His descendants took the chain to Christie's in Paris last year, from where the Rijksmuseum was able to acquire it.

To celebrate its return, the Rijksmuseum is setting up a presentation in which the restored chain is combined with works on paper.