Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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PENDANT WITH AGNUS DEI

Italy (probably Lombardy), 15th century

Silver, gilded silver, niello

  • 10.600 €
  • £9,300
  • $12,000
  • PENDANT WITH AGNUS DEI

    Italy (probably Lombardy), 15th century
    Silver, gilded silver, niello
    Weight 7.9 grams; dimensions 29 × 21 × 8 mm

    Description
    Double-sided pendant in the shape of a circular capsule with an ornate frame of corded filigree wires in gilded silver, with a foliate base for a pendant loop. The front is set with a silver and niello roundel showing the Lamb of God with halo and a banner against a diagonal-striped background; a silver roundel set in the reverse is engraved with a rosette and acanthus foliage.

    Comparisons and Literature
    Similar devotional pendants show a varying combination of motifs—for example, with the Lamb of God on one side and the face of Christ on the other (Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see Lightbown 1992, no. 46) or the Sacred Monogram IHS (British Museum, London; see exh. cat., Madonnas and Miracles 2017, plates 82 and 120). Secular versions of this pendant thought to have been love tokens show representations of facing couples, often with the IHS monogram on the reverse (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; see exh. cat., Art and Love in Renaissance Italy 2008, nos. 35 a and b; and Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, inv. no. Sch 3393). See also a selection of six such pendants in the Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt am Main (cat., Schmuckstücke Antike bis Jugendstil 1991, no. 27 a-f).

    Reference number: 35040

  • Niello

    Ancient technique in which an engraved design in metal is filled with powdered niello alloy in a dark grey or black color (composed of silver, copper, lead, and sulphur). The niello alloy is melted (the entire metal piece is heated in a kiln) and fuses with the underlying metal. The object is then polished and the result gives the effect of enamel. Niello has been made at least since the time of ancient Rome.

  • 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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PENDANT WITH AGNUS DEI

Italy (probably Lombardy), 15th century
Silver, gilded silver, niello
Weight 7.9 grams; dimensions 29 × 21 × 8 mm

USD $12,000

Description
Double-sided pendant in the shape of a circular capsule with an ornate frame of corded filigree wires in gilded silver, with a foliate base for a pendant loop. The front is set with a silver and niello roundel showing the Lamb of God with halo and a banner against a diagonal-striped background; a silver roundel set in the reverse is engraved with a rosette and acanthus foliage.

Comparisons and Literature
Similar devotional pendants show a varying combination of motifs—for example, with the Lamb of God on one side and the face of Christ on the other (Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see Lightbown 1992, no. 46) or the Sacred Monogram IHS (British Museum, London; see exh. cat., Madonnas and Miracles 2017, plates 82 and 120). Secular versions of this pendant thought to have been love tokens show representations of facing couples, often with the IHS monogram on the reverse (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; see exh. cat., Art and Love in Renaissance Italy 2008, nos. 35 a and b; and Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, inv. no. Sch 3393). See also a selection of six such pendants in the Museum für Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt am Main (cat., Schmuckstücke Antike bis Jugendstil 1991, no. 27 a-f).

Reference number: 35040

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