Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURAL RING

Byzantine Empire, 7th-8th century

Gold

  • 8.500 €
  • £7,600
  • $10,000
  • BYZANTINE ARCHITECTURAL RING

    Byzantine Empire, 7th-8th century
    Gold
    Weight 8.8 gr; bezel 8 x 8 x 12 mm; circumference 62 mm; US size 10; UK size T½

    Rings belonging to the type of the “architectural ring” are characterized by a very highly projecting bezel forming an aedicule.  In the present example, the technique (openwork consisting of a large strand of wire and ornamental granulation) and the motif (especially the peltae) certainly confirm a Byzantine provenance.  Architectural rings were particularly popular during the 6th to the 9th century in Western Europe, especially Gaul, as well as in Byzantium, attesting to an exchange of artistic ideas and technical expertise.

    Description
    Irregular hoop formed by a wavy strand of wire framed by two straight wires, on which is soldered a second external wire crenellated on the outside; bezel composed of a cylindrical hollow band of gold on which is soldered a quadrangular shrine; each face of the shrine is made of gold wire forming a peltae, the angles occupied by gold wire formed into claws to hold the top part composed of an external crenellated wire surrounding a filigree circle whose center is ornamented by three globules.  In very good condition.

    Literature
    For comparisons, see Alice and Louis Koch Collection, inv. no. 17,13 ( 7th-century Byzantine architectural ring, with a very similar quadrangular bezel composed of four faces with peltae motives, published in Chadour, 1994, no. 495); see also Zucker Family Collection (6th-7th century ring with a quadrangular shrine with faces made of peltae, published in Scarisbrick 2007, no. 319); see also Washington, D.C., The Dumbarton Oaks Collection,no. i.5:i (7th-century Byzantine ring showing of very similar hoop with a wavy strand of wire, published in Ross, 1965, no.72).

     

    Reference number: 260

  • Bezel

    The upper, protruding part of a finger ring (excluding the hoop and the shoulders) often set with a gemstone.

    Granulation

    Decoration consisting of minute spherical grains of metal soldered to a background usually in gold; the ancient method which left no solder visible between the grains and the surface of the gold was rediscovered only in the twentieth century.

  • 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

Byzantine Empire, 7th-8th century
Gold
Weight 8.8 gr; bezel 8 x 8 x 12 mm; circumference 62 mm; US size 10; UK size T½

USD $10,000

Rings belonging to the type of the “architectural ring” are characterized by a very highly projecting bezel forming an aedicule.  In the present example, the technique (openwork consisting of a large strand of wire and ornamental granulation) and the motif (especially the peltae) certainly confirm a Byzantine provenance.  Architectural rings were particularly popular during the 6th to the 9th century in Western Europe, especially Gaul, as well as in Byzantium, attesting to an exchange of artistic ideas and technical expertise.

Description
Irregular hoop formed by a wavy strand of wire framed by two straight wires, on which is soldered a second external wire crenellated on the outside; bezel composed of a cylindrical hollow band of gold on which is soldered a quadrangular shrine; each face of the shrine is made of gold wire forming a peltae, the angles occupied by gold wire formed into claws to hold the top part composed of an external crenellated wire surrounding a filigree circle whose center is ornamented by three globules.  In very good condition.

Literature
For comparisons, see Alice and Louis Koch Collection, inv. no. 17,13 ( 7th-century Byzantine architectural ring, with a very similar quadrangular bezel composed of four faces with peltae motives, published in Chadour, 1994, no. 495); see also Zucker Family Collection (6th-7th century ring with a quadrangular shrine with faces made of peltae, published in Scarisbrick 2007, no. 319); see also Washington, D.C., The Dumbarton Oaks Collection,no. i.5:i (7th-century Byzantine ring showing of very similar hoop with a wavy strand of wire, published in Ross, 1965, no.72).

 

Reference number: 260

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