Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
  • ring
  • ring
  • ring
  • ring
  • ring
  • ring

RENAISSANCE MERCHANT'S RING WG

Germany (?), 16th century

Gold

sold
  • RENAISSANCE MERCHANT'S RING WG

    Germany (?), 16th century
    Gold
    Weight 9.3 gr; circumference 55.7mm; US size 7½; UK size O½

    The increase in the population of Europe was followed by the demand for more and varied provisions distributed from home and abroad by road, river, and sea. Because of the risks of robbery, piracy, and shipwreck, the merchants divided their consignments between several shipments rather than risk all in one; to avoid loss and confusion when claiming, easily identifiable marks were essential. The merchants were proud of their marks, which they had represented on their houses, on shop signs, and on works of art, and, when they died, on their tombstones. Although those with initials as well as the mark engraved on the metal surface of the bezel, as in this example, have survived in large numbers, most are made of silver or bronze. Owned and used by a merchant who stamped the bales containing his goods as well as sealing business documents and correspondence with this distinctive device and initials, the ring reflects the expansion of economic activity in sixteenth-century Europe and with it the growing importance of the merchant class.

    Provenance: Melvin Gutman (1886–1967), Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 15, 1970 Part V, lot no. 123; Thomas Flannery, Jr. (1926–1980), Winnetka, Illinois, Sotheby’s sale, London, December 2, 1983, lot no. 317; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

    Reference number: 633

  • Shoulders

    Often articulated, the shoulders are the part of the ring between the hoop (or shank) and the bezel.

    Signet ring

    Ring used for signing, thus often with the coat-of-arms or the initials of the wearer's family incised in reverse on the bezel. The earliest-known signet rings date from ancient Egypt, thousands of years ago.

  • 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.

     

RENAISSANCE MERCHANT'S RING WG

Germany (?), 16th century
Gold
Weight 9.3 gr; circumference 55.7mm; US size 7½; UK size O½

The increase in the population of Europe was followed by the demand for more and varied provisions distributed from home and abroad by road, river, and sea. Because of the risks of robbery, piracy, and shipwreck, the merchants divided their consignments between several shipments rather than risk all in one; to avoid loss and confusion when claiming, easily identifiable marks were essential. The merchants were proud of their marks, which they had represented on their houses, on shop signs, and on works of art, and, when they died, on their tombstones. Although those with initials as well as the mark engraved on the metal surface of the bezel, as in this example, have survived in large numbers, most are made of silver or bronze. Owned and used by a merchant who stamped the bales containing his goods as well as sealing business documents and correspondence with this distinctive device and initials, the ring reflects the expansion of economic activity in sixteenth-century Europe and with it the growing importance of the merchant class.

Provenance: Melvin Gutman (1886–1967), Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 15, 1970 Part V, lot no. 123; Thomas Flannery, Jr. (1926–1980), Winnetka, Illinois, Sotheby’s sale, London, December 2, 1983, lot no. 317; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

Reference number: 633

Shoulders

Often articulated, the shoulders are the part of the ring between the hoop (or shank) and the bezel.

Signet ring

Ring used for signing, thus often with the coat-of-arms or the initials of the wearer's family incised in reverse on the bezel. The earliest-known signet rings date from ancient Egypt, thousands of years ago.

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.

 

You might also like

  • RENAISSANCE GEMSTONE RING

    Northern Italy, 16th century

  • Renaissance Gemstone Ring

    Italy, 16th-early 17th century

  • RENAISSANCE CAMEO RING

    Italy, cameo: second half of 16th century in a late 18th century ring

  • Ring with Renaissance Cameo

    Probably Northern Italy, cameo late 16th-early 17th century; ring: second half 18th century

  • Art Nouveau Ophelia Ring

    France, 1909

  • Art Nouveau Nymph and Satyr Ring by Arvisenet

    France, Paris?, c. 1900

  • Ionic Capital Rings by Stanley Tigerman

    United States and Italy, 1986-1987

  • Gold and Enamel Band by Giovanni Corvaja

    Italy, Todi, 2013

  • Totentanz Ring by Claude Lévêque

    France, 2015

  • Posy Ring, “No riches to content”

    England, 18th century

  • Posy Ring, “THE GYFT OF A FRIND”

    England, late 16th – 17th century

  • Posy Ring, “Gods intent none can prevent”

    England, 18th century

  • Cameo with Bust of a Young Woman Holding a Dog

    Italy, 16th century; mount 18th century

  • Posy Ring, “A true friends gift”

    England (Plymouth ?), first half of 18th century

  • Signet Ring with Double-headed Eagle

    Western Europe (Germany or Austria ?), c. 1700