Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Byzantine Cloisonné Ring

Byzantium?, 8th-10th century

Gold and enamel

  • 4.000 €
  • £3,600
  • $4,500
  • Byzantine Cloisonné Ring

    Byzantium?, 8th-10th century
    Gold and enamel
    Weight 2.8 gr; bezel 7 x 12 x 10 mm; circumference 54 mm; US size 6¾; UK size N

    With a round projecting bezel composed of cloisonné inlay in red and white enamel in the form of a flower on a dark-blue ground, this ring is an excellent example of its type, although the enamel makes it too fragile for everyday wear.  Its twisted wire hoop is typical of late Roman and Byzantine examples. Cloisonné enamel consists of cloisons forming the outline of a decorative pattern and soldered to the surface. The enamels are laid into the shapes and fired.

    Description
    Double twisted wire hoop hammered under the bezel; two gold globules on each side of the bezel at its junction with the hoop; projecting raised bezel with a circular cloisonné inlay in red and white enamel in the form of a flower on a dark-blue ground; in excellent condition.

    Literature
    For comparisons, see Cologne, Römisch-Germanisches Museum 51.23 (gold ring with a rosette cloisonné enamel; published in Das Reich der Salier 1024-1125, 1992, no. 18); Alice and Louis Koch Collection, inv. 18.14 (Carolingian ring with a rosette in cloisonné enamel; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 554); ex-Melvin Gutman collection (gold pendant; sale, NewYork, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 5 December 1969, lot 75).

    Reference number: 201

  • Enamel

    Siliceous substance fusible upon metal, either transparent or opaque and with or without color, but it is usually employed to add decorative color to metal. Enamel can be applied in many different ways, including cloisonné , champlevé , and plique à jour .

    Cloisonné

    Method of applying enamel to metal in which the design is first outlined on the metal surface using a metal wire; the space between the wires is filled with enamel and then fired to a glassy sheen.

  • 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 Cloisonné Ring

Byzantium?, 8th-10th century
Gold and enamel
Weight 2.8 gr; bezel 7 x 12 x 10 mm; circumference 54 mm; US size 6¾; UK size N

USD $4,500

With a round projecting bezel composed of cloisonné inlay in red and white enamel in the form of a flower on a dark-blue ground, this ring is an excellent example of its type, although the enamel makes it too fragile for everyday wear.  Its twisted wire hoop is typical of late Roman and Byzantine examples. Cloisonné enamel consists of cloisons forming the outline of a decorative pattern and soldered to the surface. The enamels are laid into the shapes and fired.

Description
Double twisted wire hoop hammered under the bezel; two gold globules on each side of the bezel at its junction with the hoop; projecting raised bezel with a circular cloisonné inlay in red and white enamel in the form of a flower on a dark-blue ground; in excellent condition.

Literature
For comparisons, see Cologne, Römisch-Germanisches Museum 51.23 (gold ring with a rosette cloisonné enamel; published in Das Reich der Salier 1024-1125, 1992, no. 18); Alice and Louis Koch Collection, inv. 18.14 (Carolingian ring with a rosette in cloisonné enamel; published in Chadour, 1994, no. 554); ex-Melvin Gutman collection (gold pendant; sale, NewYork, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 5 December 1969, lot 75).

Reference number: 201

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