Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CRUCIFIXION

Germany, 1450–1500

Gilded silver

  • 18.900 €
  • £16,900
  • $22,000
  • RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CRUCIFIXION

    Germany, 1450–1500
    Gilded silver
    Weight 88.3 grams; dimensions 102 × 39 × 11 mm (with chain), 46 × 39 × 11 mm (without chain)

    Description
    Gilded silver reliquary pendant comprising a flat rectangular box with plain sides and back. The front panel with Crucifixion scene is set against a cross-hatched background and functions as a sliding lid. The figures of Christ on the branched cross and the Virgin Mary and St. John on pedestals are modeled in relief. When opened, the inside reveals four compartments for relics. On top are three pendant loops holding short, heavy chains that are suspended from two pendant rings connected by an ornamental round bead.

    Provenance
    Formerly Howard Neville Collection of Early Works of Art; sale, Bonhams, London, 9 December 2009, lot no. 14.

    Comparisons and Literature
    The Crucifixion with Christ on a branched cross appears in the goldsmiths’ work of the second half of the fifteenth century, for example, on the altar cross from the Treasury of Basel Cathedral (c. 1350 and 1464-74), today in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see Husband 2001, no. 14, and Meles 2001, no. 24 (the latter example with compartments for relics at the back of the cross). Cf. also a related scene on a branched altar cross in the Treasury of Passau Cathedral (Fritz 1982, fig. 586, 1450- 75) and on a pendant on a miniature scale in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (Scarisbrick 1979, no. 480). Rare, however, is the branched cross on a reliquary pendant.

    Reference number: 35004

  • 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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RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CRUCIFIXION

Germany, 1450–1500
Gilded silver
Weight 88.3 grams; dimensions 102 × 39 × 11 mm (with chain), 46 × 39 × 11 mm (without chain)

USD $22,000

Description
Gilded silver reliquary pendant comprising a flat rectangular box with plain sides and back. The front panel with Crucifixion scene is set against a cross-hatched background and functions as a sliding lid. The figures of Christ on the branched cross and the Virgin Mary and St. John on pedestals are modeled in relief. When opened, the inside reveals four compartments for relics. On top are three pendant loops holding short, heavy chains that are suspended from two pendant rings connected by an ornamental round bead.

Provenance
Formerly Howard Neville Collection of Early Works of Art; sale, Bonhams, London, 9 December 2009, lot no. 14.

Comparisons and Literature
The Crucifixion with Christ on a branched cross appears in the goldsmiths’ work of the second half of the fifteenth century, for example, on the altar cross from the Treasury of Basel Cathedral (c. 1350 and 1464-74), today in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see Husband 2001, no. 14, and Meles 2001, no. 24 (the latter example with compartments for relics at the back of the cross). Cf. also a related scene on a branched altar cross in the Treasury of Passau Cathedral (Fritz 1982, fig. 586, 1450- 75) and on a pendant on a miniature scale in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (Scarisbrick 1979, no. 480). Rare, however, is the branched cross on a reliquary pendant.

Reference number: 35004