Medieval Rings

les Enluminures


In Act 5 of his Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Gratiano mocked the posy ring as a cheap trinket adorned with “cutler’s poetry.” The two present examples, however, demonstrate that seventeenth-century poets and jewelers often treated the limited space and simple contours of the posy ring as a serious artistic challenge.  The short poems on the interiors of both rings economically gesture to the erudition of their composers. In the first, the phrase, “Dopo Dio, Voi,” translates a common English posy into Italian, a language popular among English nobles of the Renaissance by virtue of their humanist educations. The cryptic posy on the second ring, “thinke it not strange, though ever exchaing,” draws language from 1 Peter 4:4 and 4:12, fashioning a veiled statement about married life that likewise draws attention to the poet’s learning.  Transforming the otherwise unassuming hoops of gold into tours-de-force of incised and enameled decoration, the goldsmiths matched the wordsmiths in skill and subtlety.

  • Exhibition-Image