Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Gothic Magic Ring with Inscription “+ANUL IOSEPH COOIIS”

Probably Italy, 12th – 13th century; intaglio, 3rd century AD

Gold, bloodstone

  • 81.100 €
  • £71,700
  • $95,000
  • Gothic Magic Ring with Inscription “+ANUL IOSEPH COOIIS”

    Probably Italy, 12th – 13th century; intaglio, 3rd century AD
    Gold, bloodstone
    Weight 10.2 gr., US size 8.25, UK size Q 3/4

    This gold ring is made of a circular hoop with round section. The ends are hammered to form a hidden support for the oval bezel, shaped like a flat dish. Set in the center is a bloodstone intaglio showing the nude Hercules throttling the Nemean lion, with a six-pointed star above the scene. On the wide gold border surrounding the gem, the following inscription is engraved in reverse in Roman capitals: “+ ANUL. JOSEPH COOIIS.” Fashioned in the twelfth or thirteenth century, the present ring is set with a Roman intaglio carved in a bloodstone. Bloodstone is one of the varying colors in which hematite, a kind of jasper, is found. In Rome it was only used for amulets. During the Middle Ages in Europe, Roman gems were sought-after spoils, known as spolia, whose pagan significance was likely known to their new owners. Here, the magical properties of the gem are reinforced by the image of the intaglio: the scene of Hercules strangling the lion was seen in ancient times as an act of prowess of the emperor over his enemies. By the time of late antiquity, such an image was worn to protect the wearer from illnesses related to cramps and colics, in particular from labor pains during childbirth.

    Exhibited:
    Brown University, Bell Gallery, List Art Center, 1987 (Allen et al. 1987, pp. 200-1, no. 62) and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Museum of Art (Mickenberg 1985, p. 310, no. 122).

    Reference number: 753

  • Cameo

    Relief carving (a carving that comes up above the surface) on a shell or stone. In multi-colored cameos, a layered substrate is used (with two different colors), and when part of the upper layer is carved away, the second color emerges as the background.

    Intaglio

    Intaglio is a method of decoration in which a design is cut into the surface, the opposite of cameo. Signet rings are frequently decorated with intaglio, as are seals.

    Hoop

    Also called the shank, the rounded part of the ring that encircles the finger and connects to the bezel at the shoulders.

    Bezel

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

  • Early Medieval

    Early Medieval finger-rings, or rings from the so-called Migration era, occupy a class by themselves. Distinctly different from those prevalent in Antiquity, they are also of great rarity most likely because they are products of a chaotic period characterized by invasion not cultural fluorescence.

    Tribal cultures–the Goths, the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Franks, the Ostrogoths, the Huns, etc.–wore their wealth as they moved from place to place. The persistence of Roman techniques can be seen in the intricate filigree and granulation of their gold work; however as the importance of the stone grew, the prominence of the bezel increased so that the beautiful uncut stone projected high above the finger. Rings of the projecting bezel type are found among the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, and the Franks. Another type, the spiral ring (already a form favored by the Celts), adopted by the Anglo-Saxons recalls the interlace of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. There are braided, twisted, and coiled examples. A small group of Anglo-Saxon rings also preserve niello decoration on flat or articulated bezels depicting mythic beasts, spirals, and other motifs.

    In Gaul, the Merovingians preferred a flat bezel on which designs could be engraved, whether they be portraits of the owner such as appears on the famous ring of the king Childerich or complex, difficult-to-decipher monograms, or animals. From the same historical milieu comes the intricate and imposing architectural ring, sometimes adorned with a cabochon garnet at the top of the bezel. The latter recalls on a minute scale Charlemagne's Palatine Chapel at Aachen with its rotunda form, arched galleries circling the central space, and dome. New types of byzantinizing forms, such as cloisonné work, came with the political stability of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires, and it is worth remembering that Otto II married a Byzantine princess.

    Much of the evidence for the origins and the dating of Early Medieval Merovingian rings is archaeological. Rings decorated with shaved garnets, for example, come from sites that follow the route of the invasions of Attila the Hun (died 453) from Hungary to Gaul. Sometimes archaeological evidence suggests the gender of a wearer, as in the case of an architectural ring from the Guillou Collection buried in the tomb of a woman. Often, it provides important, independent means of dating, for hoards included dated coins, as well as other items made from precious metals.

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Gothic Magic Ring with Inscription “+ANUL IOSEPH COOIIS”

Probably Italy, 12th – 13th century; intaglio, 3rd century AD
Gold, bloodstone
Weight 10.2 gr., US size 8.25, UK size Q 3/4

USD $95,000

This gold ring is made of a circular hoop with round section. The ends are hammered to form a hidden support for the oval bezel, shaped like a flat dish. Set in the center is a bloodstone intaglio showing the nude Hercules throttling the Nemean lion, with a six-pointed star above the scene. On the wide gold border surrounding the gem, the following inscription is engraved in reverse in Roman capitals: “+ ANUL. JOSEPH COOIIS.” Fashioned in the twelfth or thirteenth century, the present ring is set with a Roman intaglio carved in a bloodstone. Bloodstone is one of the varying colors in which hematite, a kind of jasper, is found. In Rome it was only used for amulets. During the Middle Ages in Europe, Roman gems were sought-after spoils, known as spolia, whose pagan significance was likely known to their new owners. Here, the magical properties of the gem are reinforced by the image of the intaglio: the scene of Hercules strangling the lion was seen in ancient times as an act of prowess of the emperor over his enemies. By the time of late antiquity, such an image was worn to protect the wearer from illnesses related to cramps and colics, in particular from labor pains during childbirth.

Exhibited:
Brown University, Bell Gallery, List Art Center, 1987 (Allen et al. 1987, pp. 200-1, no. 62) and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Museum of Art (Mickenberg 1985, p. 310, no. 122).

Reference number: 753

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