A Marten Head is a type of protective amulets from the Italian Renaissance. Composed of a thin sheet of gold, and tooled to simulate fur, Marten Heads were decorated with silver, rubies, pearls, other jewelry and attached to Marten fur. The most ornate example of Marten Head, featuring in the illustration below, is dated to 1550-1559. Of Venetian origin, it is currently conserved at The Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore.

Martens – as well as other weasel-like carnivores – were commonly associated with childbirth in the Renaissance. Wearing their furs was thought to increase fertility and to protect one during pregnancy. This is because several hundred yeas ago people believed that martens conceive through their head and therefor the pregnancy was considered chastised.

Giving a women a Marten Head was an act of protection and caring.

Artist: Kayla D. Younkin

Image of a Marten Head

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Credit: Open Past & Kayla D. Younkin

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