Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Posy Ring “Knit in one by christ alone”

England, late 17th-early 18th century

Gold

  • 5.500 €
  • £4,900
  • $6,500
  • Posy Ring “Knit in one by christ alone”

    England, late 17th-early 18th century
    Gold
    Weight 5.1 gr.; circumference: 55.76 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

    “Posy rings,” their name deriving from the term poésie or poetry, have mottoes or inscriptions on a plain gold band. In many instances the message was concealed inside the hoop and its content only known to the wearer and giver. These “posies” were common from the late medieval period onwards, serving as literary exercises and formalized expressions of sentiment. Posies on rings found great popularity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were exchanged between friends, relatives, and lovers, as well as at betrothals and wedding ceremonies. The tradition is very British and their use as a marriage ring became particularly popular during the Commonwealth under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649-1653 and 1659-1660) when the ascendancy of the Puritans in England discouraged any extravagant displays of luxury through wedding rings adorned with enamel and gemstones, as was otherwise fashionable. The inscription here alluding to Christ uniting the couple makes it likely the ring was given during a wedding ceremony.

    Description:
    A wide gold band with D-section and inside the engraved inscription “Knit in one by Christ alone”. The ring shows signs of wear through age and is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Joan Evans records several variations of the motto (Evans 1931, p. 65). The same inscription appears on a posy ring in the British Museum (Dalton 1912, no. 1227, inv. no. AF 1308) as well as on two rings in the Museum of London (inv. nos. 62.4/134 and 62.4/167). See also Kunz 1917, p. 240. For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

    Reference number: 712

  • Posy

    From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

  • Renaissance & Baroque

    Considerable evidence exists concerning the making and wearing of rings in the Renaissance. Their appearance in painted portraits confirms that they continued to be worn on multiple fingers, suspended from chains and ribbons, sewn onto sleeves or hats, and so forth. When not worn they were sometimes stored on parchment rolls or in neatly compartmentalized boxes, known from documents and paintings. In the Renaissance, the medieval practice of using uncut stones was abandoned in favor of faceting; table-cut facets were among the earliest and most popular, but other cuts rapidly followed. Making rings that would show off best the qualities of the stone became a skill that exercised the virtuosity of cutters, chasers, engravers, enamellers, and goldsmiths sometimes in collaboration. The highly sculpturesque quality of most Renaissance and Baroque rings can be compared with the striving for greater veracity that characterizes the monumental arts of this period.

    By far the most common type of ring from the Renaissance was the boxed bezel set with faceted stones in highly ornate geometric bezels with intricate articulated shoulders, sometimes with protruding volutes, the whole richly enameled. Surviving drawings for rings by sixteenth-century goldsmith-designers Etienne Delaune, Pierre Woeiriot, and René Boyvin record variations on this type. Often reviving classical subjects and motifs, numerous cameos and intaglios also date from this era, produced under illustrious, often princely, patronage. By the sixteenth century the careers of famous gem-cutters can be reconstructed; they include Valerio Belli, Alessandro Cesati, Alessandro Masnago, and Francesco Torino. However, few Renaissance cameos and intaglios appear in their original mounts, because they were often made not as rings but rather as virtuoso carvings, kept in drawers in cabinets and taken out and admired by Renaissance princes.

    During Elizabethan and Tudor times in England, commonplace books (the earliest dated 1596) were used by goldsmiths and their customers to provide appropriate inscriptions for rings. References to posy rings (from “poésie” or poetry) abound in literature of the period; for example, in Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii, 162): “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.” The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The newly prized diamond, expensive then as now, was often imitated by the similarly favored rock crystal. Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era.

     

Posy Ring “Knit in one by christ alone”

England, late 17th-early 18th century
Gold
Weight 5.1 gr.; circumference: 55.76 mm.; US size 7.5; UK size P

“Posy rings,” their name deriving from the term poésie or poetry, have mottoes or inscriptions on a plain gold band. In many instances the message was concealed inside the hoop and its content only known to the wearer and giver. These “posies” were common from the late medieval period onwards, serving as literary exercises and formalized expressions of sentiment. Posies on rings found great popularity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and were exchanged between friends, relatives, and lovers, as well as at betrothals and wedding ceremonies. The tradition is very British and their use as a marriage ring became particularly popular during the Commonwealth under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649-1653 and 1659-1660) when the ascendancy of the Puritans in England discouraged any extravagant displays of luxury through wedding rings adorned with enamel and gemstones, as was otherwise fashionable. The inscription here alluding to Christ uniting the couple makes it likely the ring was given during a wedding ceremony.

Description:
A wide gold band with D-section and inside the engraved inscription “Knit in one by Christ alone”. The ring shows signs of wear through age and is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Joan Evans records several variations of the motto (Evans 1931, p. 65). The same inscription appears on a posy ring in the British Museum (Dalton 1912, no. 1227, inv. no. AF 1308) as well as on two rings in the Museum of London (inv. nos. 62.4/134 and 62.4/167). See also Kunz 1917, p. 240. For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

Reference number: 712

Posy

From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

Renaissance & Baroque

Considerable evidence exists concerning the making and wearing of rings in the Renaissance. Their appearance in painted portraits confirms that they continued to be worn on multiple fingers, suspended from chains and ribbons, sewn onto sleeves or hats, and so forth. When not worn they were sometimes stored on parchment rolls or in neatly compartmentalized boxes, known from documents and paintings. In the Renaissance, the medieval practice of using uncut stones was abandoned in favor of faceting; table-cut facets were among the earliest and most popular, but other cuts rapidly followed. Making rings that would show off best the qualities of the stone became a skill that exercised the virtuosity of cutters, chasers, engravers, enamellers, and goldsmiths sometimes in collaboration. The highly sculpturesque quality of most Renaissance and Baroque rings can be compared with the striving for greater veracity that characterizes the monumental arts of this period.

By far the most common type of ring from the Renaissance was the boxed bezel set with faceted stones in highly ornate geometric bezels with intricate articulated shoulders, sometimes with protruding volutes, the whole richly enameled. Surviving drawings for rings by sixteenth-century goldsmith-designers Etienne Delaune, Pierre Woeiriot, and René Boyvin record variations on this type. Often reviving classical subjects and motifs, numerous cameos and intaglios also date from this era, produced under illustrious, often princely, patronage. By the sixteenth century the careers of famous gem-cutters can be reconstructed; they include Valerio Belli, Alessandro Cesati, Alessandro Masnago, and Francesco Torino. However, few Renaissance cameos and intaglios appear in their original mounts, because they were often made not as rings but rather as virtuoso carvings, kept in drawers in cabinets and taken out and admired by Renaissance princes.

During Elizabethan and Tudor times in England, commonplace books (the earliest dated 1596) were used by goldsmiths and their customers to provide appropriate inscriptions for rings. References to posy rings (from “poésie” or poetry) abound in literature of the period; for example, in Shakespeare's Hamlet (III, ii, 162): “Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring.” The discovery of the New World also wrought changes in the evolution of rings, as it did for painting, because new stones became available. The newly prized diamond, expensive then as now, was often imitated by the similarly favored rock crystal. Extensive surviving pictorial evidence is useful because it contributes to a more precise dating and localization of rings from this era.

 

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