Medieval Rings

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

RENAISSANCE SIGNET RING WITH CRYSTAL INTAGLIO HE

Germany?, c. 1600

Gold and crystal

sold
  • RENAISSANCE SIGNET RING WITH CRYSTAL INTAGLIO HE

    Germany?, c. 1600
    Gold and crystal
    Weight 20.2 gr; circumference 66.6 mm; US size 11¾; UK size W

    Worn on the index finger or the thumb, ready to hand, the arms and other devices on most signets were engraved on the surface of the gold bezel, but the foiled crystal intaglio was for those aspiring to a more deluxe, eye-catching design. By this means, the arms or device engraved on the crystal were painted in the relevant colors on foil below at the base of the setting. Impressions could thus be taken from the crystal intaglio without exposing much admired bright colors to the damaging effects of hot wax used for sealing business documents and private correspondence. The ring is individualized not only by the heraldry and initials but also by the figure of Fortune standing on a visored helmet, suggesting that she would favor the owner’s military endeavors, and bring him victory over his enemies.

    Provenance: Melvin Gutman (1886–1967), Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 15, 1970, Part V, lot 126; Thomas Flannery, Jr. (1926–1980), Winnetka, Illinois, Sotheby’s sale, London, December 2, 1983, lot 308; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

    Reference number: 634

  • Foil

    Thin metal backing for gems to increase their brilliance, used from Antiquity through the Renaissance with precious stones as well as glass.

    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 SIGNET RING WITH CRYSTAL INTAGLIO HE

Germany?, c. 1600
Gold and crystal
Weight 20.2 gr; circumference 66.6 mm; US size 11¾; UK size W

Worn on the index finger or the thumb, ready to hand, the arms and other devices on most signets were engraved on the surface of the gold bezel, but the foiled crystal intaglio was for those aspiring to a more deluxe, eye-catching design. By this means, the arms or device engraved on the crystal were painted in the relevant colors on foil below at the base of the setting. Impressions could thus be taken from the crystal intaglio without exposing much admired bright colors to the damaging effects of hot wax used for sealing business documents and private correspondence. The ring is individualized not only by the heraldry and initials but also by the figure of Fortune standing on a visored helmet, suggesting that she would favor the owner’s military endeavors, and bring him victory over his enemies.

Provenance: Melvin Gutman (1886–1967), Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, May 15, 1970, Part V, lot 126; Thomas Flannery, Jr. (1926–1980), Winnetka, Illinois, Sotheby’s sale, London, December 2, 1983, lot 308; Benjamin Zucker, New York; on deposit, Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, 1985–2013.

Reference number: 634

Foil

Thin metal backing for gems to increase their brilliance, used from Antiquity through the Renaissance with precious stones as well as glass.

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.