Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Iconographic Ring with St. Christopher

England, c. 1450-70

Gold, traces of blue enamel

  • 20.600 €
  • £18,500
  • $24,000
  • Iconographic Ring with St. Christopher

    England, c. 1450-70
    Gold, traces of blue enamel
    Weight 8 gr.; circumference: 65.5 mm.; US size 11.25; UK size W 1/4

    In the Middle Ages rings with devotional scenes and favorite saints were worn not only as a sign of faith, they also often had a more personal significance for the wearer. Saints were venerated as patrons of a shared name, or a profession, for example a patron saint which represented a particular guild. More often though the belief was that saints could accompany the wearer through life, bring prosperity, heal from disease, or protect the wearer from the dangers of life. In the late fourteenth century the image of Saint Christopher protected against sudden death, but he was also known as the patron saint of travelers. The scene on the ring portrays the legend of the saint who carried the Christ Child over his shoulder across a river. Such rings made of gold, silver, or silver-gilt were popular in England and Scotland, and described as “iconographic” by Victorian ring collectors.    

    Description:
    The flat, yet rounded hoop widens towards the shoulder to form a buckle shape on either side. The oblong bezel is engraved with the scene of St. Christopher bearing the Christ Child. Traces of blue enamel are evidence of age and wear. The ring is in good condition.

    Provenance:
    Prior to 1990 the ring belonged to a private British collection.

    Literature:
    St. Christopher was very popular and can be found on many iconographic rings. For the ring type, cf. examples in the British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, pp. 111-119); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Bury 1984, p. 184ff.; Church 2011, pp. 20-22). Cf. also Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 136-138.  For other examples of rings with belt buckles, cf. examples in the British Museum, (AF 662), Victoria & Albert Museum (Church 2011, no. 19) and the from the Colmar Treasure, Musée de Cluny, Paris (Cl. 14943).

    Reference number: 757

  • 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 .

  • 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.

     

  • ring
  • ring
  • ring
ring

Iconographic Ring with St. Christopher

England, c. 1450-70
Gold, traces of blue enamel
Weight 8 gr.; circumference: 65.5 mm.; US size 11.25; UK size W 1/4

USD $24,000

In the Middle Ages rings with devotional scenes and favorite saints were worn not only as a sign of faith, they also often had a more personal significance for the wearer. Saints were venerated as patrons of a shared name, or a profession, for example a patron saint which represented a particular guild. More often though the belief was that saints could accompany the wearer through life, bring prosperity, heal from disease, or protect the wearer from the dangers of life. In the late fourteenth century the image of Saint Christopher protected against sudden death, but he was also known as the patron saint of travelers. The scene on the ring portrays the legend of the saint who carried the Christ Child over his shoulder across a river. Such rings made of gold, silver, or silver-gilt were popular in England and Scotland, and described as “iconographic” by Victorian ring collectors.    

Description:
The flat, yet rounded hoop widens towards the shoulder to form a buckle shape on either side. The oblong bezel is engraved with the scene of St. Christopher bearing the Christ Child. Traces of blue enamel are evidence of age and wear. The ring is in good condition.

Provenance:
Prior to 1990 the ring belonged to a private British collection.

Literature:
St. Christopher was very popular and can be found on many iconographic rings. For the ring type, cf. examples in the British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, pp. 111-119); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Bury 1984, p. 184ff.; Church 2011, pp. 20-22). Cf. also Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 136-138.  For other examples of rings with belt buckles, cf. examples in the British Museum, (AF 662), Victoria & Albert Museum (Church 2011, no. 19) and the from the Colmar Treasure, Musée de Cluny, Paris (Cl. 14943).

Reference number: 757

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