Your small hand-held iPhone (well they are bigger and bigger these days) sends personalized messages sometimes with images. In bygone days, this was one of the functions of rings. Our post for May with is all about their messages.
Perhaps the quintessential message-ring is the posy ring. You can text your sweetheart a short missive today, but how much more romantic to give her a Renaissance posy ring saying, “You never knew a ♡ more true”. A quick message made pithier with an emoji-like heart. Even more abbreviated, the top half of this mourning ring acts as a rebus (a type of pictogram similar to text speak) with the letters "J" and "E", a glass, and the letter "L" together spelling out the French phrase "I adore her." The sentiment is echoed in the ring's lower half where a young maiden stands with a lover's crown and a faithful dog, popular symbols of affection and grief.
The eagle on a signet symbolized earthly power, as well as courage and strength (another candidate for an emoji). And, the charming image of a Virgin and Child, surrounded by diamonds and sapphires, poignantly conveys ever-lasting motherly love; it was a gift from mother to daughter.
Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the elaborte faience ring of a "Cat and Kittens" (Acc. Number 2017.34) will soon be on display in Gallery 124. The online description of the ring relates the imagery to the myth of the "Faraway Goddess" and suggests it was used for the celebration of a festival in honor of the deity.
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