Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURAL RING

Byzantium, 6th century

gold and pink hardstone

  • 35.700 €
  • £30,900
  • $40,000
  • BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURAL RING

    Byzantium, 6th century
    gold and pink hardstone
    weight 5.8 gr.; circumference 57.6 mm.; US size 8 ¼; UK size Q

    This elegant ring shows the goldsmith’s mastery. Its typology and style of decoration were found in Byzantium, as well as in Western Europe. It belongs to the group of architectural rings, so-called because of the parallels between their shape and that of architectural elements such as domes and arcades. The majority was discovered in Northern Gaul, often in gravesites in the tombs of women, while others were found in Byzantium. According to Chadour, this type of ring with an architectural bezel in a round form (instead if square) originated in Byzantium and then spread to Europe. The ring displays similarities with jewels forming part of a group of 6th century Merovingian architectural rings. The colonnade decorating the base of the projecting bezel is reminiscent of that appearing in many of these rings that were made in Northern Gaul.

    Description
    The projecting domed bezel holds a pinkish-red hardstone; around its sides a twisted wire forms a series of granulated hoops forming six arches. Gold beads punctuate the corners of the arches and four larger beads seat at the edges of the bezel. The hoop is large and flat and decorated with a double braid.

    Literature:
    For comparison, see Alice and Louis Koch collection (a Byzantine gold architectural ring with an arch bezel punctuated at its corners with gold beads shows, published in Chadour, 1994, vol. I, n. 495 and 496), Musée du Louvre, OA11015 (a 6th-7th century architectural ring found in France, set with a garnet, with an architectural colonnade at the base of the bezel (published in Hindman, 2007, p. 81). A list of the extant architectural rings is found in Hindman.

    Reference number: 136

  • Early Christian & Byzantine

    Information about rings in late Antiquity comes from Roman authors, such as Pliny, Martial, and Clement of Alexandria. In his Natural History Pliny states: “... many people do not allow any gems in a signet-ring, and seal with the gold itself; this was a fashion invented when Claudius Caesar was Emperor.” The Roman poet Martial remarked in the first century A.D. he had seen a middle-class citizen wearing no less than six rings on each finger; although under Septimus Severus (died 211 A.D.) a decree was issued allowing each soldier to wear a single gold ring. The Church Fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, discouraged wearing any jewelry at all. However, they did permit Christians to wear one ring, either the seal of their family or the wedding ring; and rings bearing Christian symbols such as fish, birds, and inscriptions of religious character were deemed acceptable.

    The types of rings from this period include examples with nominative inscriptions or plain gold monograms for sealing, marriage and betrothal rings, devotional and religious rings, and decorative rings. Some marriage and fidelity rings are expressly related to the formal institution of marriage and its vows. The symbolic linking of the couple that is expressed in the dextrarum junctio, or the joining of hands, persisted from ceremonies from Roman times. One type of marriage ring thus displays two joined hands. Portraits of the bride and groom, sometimes with crowns over their heads (actually used in ceremonies) or a cross between them, also exist in rings. The man is typically portrayed on the left, in the position of greater importance. Such rings suggest that men and women shared an emotional bond and a practical partnership. Other strictly Byzantine examples depict the bride and groom flanking Christ to indicate that he officiates over the union of bride and groom, sealed by his cross. Typical inscriptions include OMONOIA (Concord) and XAPIC (Grace). In the seventh century, Isidore of Seville wrote: “The ring is given by the espouser to the espoused either as a sign of mutual fidelity ... therefore the ring is placed on the fourth finger because a certain vein, it is said, flows thence to the heart.”

    Other types of rings of the period include decorative rings with attractive gemstones, cameos, and intaglios, sometimes set in beautifully wrought bands made with pierced, twisted, and beaded gold. The excesses associated with the later Roman Empire find expression in two-, three-, and four-finger rings, many made in Alexandria, and in the proliferation of baby rings perhaps not only intended for infants and small children but also meant to adorn statuary as votive offerings. In the Byzantine East, devotional rings like small icons depict frontal standing figures of saints, God the Father, or the Virgin Mary. The love of bright, gleaming colors, so evident in Byzantine mosaics, metalwork, and manuscript illumination, has its counterpart in richly enameled rings.

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BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURAL RING

Byzantium, 6th century
gold and pink hardstone
weight 5.8 gr.; circumference 57.6 mm.; US size 8 ¼; UK size Q

USD $40,000

This elegant ring shows the goldsmith’s mastery. Its typology and style of decoration were found in Byzantium, as well as in Western Europe. It belongs to the group of architectural rings, so-called because of the parallels between their shape and that of architectural elements such as domes and arcades. The majority was discovered in Northern Gaul, often in gravesites in the tombs of women, while others were found in Byzantium. According to Chadour, this type of ring with an architectural bezel in a round form (instead if square) originated in Byzantium and then spread to Europe. The ring displays similarities with jewels forming part of a group of 6th century Merovingian architectural rings. The colonnade decorating the base of the projecting bezel is reminiscent of that appearing in many of these rings that were made in Northern Gaul.

Description
The projecting domed bezel holds a pinkish-red hardstone; around its sides a twisted wire forms a series of granulated hoops forming six arches. Gold beads punctuate the corners of the arches and four larger beads seat at the edges of the bezel. The hoop is large and flat and decorated with a double braid.

Literature:
For comparison, see Alice and Louis Koch collection (a Byzantine gold architectural ring with an arch bezel punctuated at its corners with gold beads shows, published in Chadour, 1994, vol. I, n. 495 and 496), Musée du Louvre, OA11015 (a 6th-7th century architectural ring found in France, set with a garnet, with an architectural colonnade at the base of the bezel (published in Hindman, 2007, p. 81). A list of the extant architectural rings is found in Hindman.

Reference number: 136

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