Medieval Rings

les Enluminures

OBJECT OF THE MONTH

Rings with secret compartments, like this one, often catch the imagination of modern collectors, and those concealing small mechanisms to deliver jets of water reveal much about the history of humor.  Documentary evidence suggests that the so-called squirt rings were appreciated not only as discreet receptacles for re-applying perfume in public, but also for their potential as prank devices and entertaining novelties.  The first recorded instance of this type of ring, in fact, recounts its use in a prank gone awry. During a banquet at the court of Fredrick the Great of Prussia in 1770, the wife of a Russian diplomat used a squirt ring to wet the face of a pompous French ambassador as he led her to the dinner table. He laughed at the gimmick the first time, but the joke had lost its charm by the second, and he discreetly warned her that a third would be met in kind. To the woman’s surprise and to the embarrassment of onlookers, he lived up to his threat and threw a glass of water in her face. To avoid further confrontation, the woman’s husband shepherded her from the table and apologized profusely for her discourteous behavior.

  • Exhibition-Image
  • Rings with secret compartments, like this one, often catch the imagination of modern collectors, and those concealing small mechanisms to deliver jets of water reveal much about the history of humor. Documentary evidence suggests that the so-called squirt rings were appreciated not only as discreet receptacles for re-applying perfume in public, but also for their potential as prank devices and entertaining novelties. The first recorded instance of this type of ring, in fact, recounts its use in a prank gone awry.  During a banquet at the court of Fredrick the Great of Prussia in 1770, the wife of a Russian diplomat used a squirt ring to wet the face of a pompous French ambassador as he led her to the dinner table. He laughed at the gimmick the first time, but the joke had lost its charm by the second, and he discreetly warned her that a third would be met in kind. To the woman’s surprise and to the embarrassment of onlookers, he lived up to his threat and threw a glass of water in her face. To avoid further confrontation, the woman’s husband shepherded her from the table and apologized profusely for her discourteous behavior.