Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
  • ring
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BLACK LETTER POSY “BON AN”

England or France, 15th century

Gold

  • 7.600 €
  • £6,600
  • $8,500
  • BLACK LETTER POSY “BON AN”

    England or France, 15th century
    Gold
    Weight 1.3 gr.; circumference: 47.97 mm.; US size 4.5; UK size I 1/2

    In the Middle Ages the New Year was a time of giving lavish gifts, a custom known as “etrennes.”  These gifts often consisted of jewels and rings made of gold, silver, and gemstones. Inventories and written accounts of royalty and the aristocracy in France and England reveal the sheer splendor and generosity of such presents, exchanged among members or the court and their household. Both the choice of material and value of such gifts were measured according to social ranking. Other than pendants, brooches, and belts, gold rings were a much favored New Year’s gift, identifiable through the engraved message “bon an” or “en bon an” wishing a Happy New Year. Some rings had floral decorations, rarely gemstones, and would often include images of saints; these were either patron saints or saints believed to have magical powers to protect its wearer against evil, illness or dangers in life, in keeping with the good wishes for the New Year.     

    Description:
    Gold hoop with D-section, inside plain, outside engraved with the inscription “bon an” in an angular Gothic script and in between stylized foliage and lozenge with quatrefoil. The ring is in good condition.

    Literature:
    For rings with variants of the inscription “bon an,” see examples in the British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 527, 940, 941) also AF. 919; Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Church 2011, p. 20, fig. 14) and Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 136-137; Campbell 2009, p. 72.  For the custom of bejeweled New Year’s gifts in the Middle Ages, see: Ronald W. Lightbown, Medieval European Jewellery, London 1992, pp. 71 ff.; Marian Campbell, Medieval Jewellery, London 2009, pp. 23-24; Diana Scarisbrick, Jewellery in Britain 1066-1837, Norwich 1994, pp. 35, 61, 65.

    Reference number: 713

  • Posy

    From “poesie” for poetry, a posy ring is one with an inscription usually on the interior of the band and was especially popular in Elizabethan and Tudor England.

  • 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

BLACK LETTER POSY “BON AN”

England or France, 15th century
Gold
Weight 1.3 gr.; circumference: 47.97 mm.; US size 4.5; UK size I 1/2

USD $8,500

In the Middle Ages the New Year was a time of giving lavish gifts, a custom known as “etrennes.”  These gifts often consisted of jewels and rings made of gold, silver, and gemstones. Inventories and written accounts of royalty and the aristocracy in France and England reveal the sheer splendor and generosity of such presents, exchanged among members or the court and their household. Both the choice of material and value of such gifts were measured according to social ranking. Other than pendants, brooches, and belts, gold rings were a much favored New Year’s gift, identifiable through the engraved message “bon an” or “en bon an” wishing a Happy New Year. Some rings had floral decorations, rarely gemstones, and would often include images of saints; these were either patron saints or saints believed to have magical powers to protect its wearer against evil, illness or dangers in life, in keeping with the good wishes for the New Year.     

Description:
Gold hoop with D-section, inside plain, outside engraved with the inscription “bon an” in an angular Gothic script and in between stylized foliage and lozenge with quatrefoil. The ring is in good condition.

Literature:
For rings with variants of the inscription “bon an,” see examples in the British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 527, 940, 941) also AF. 919; Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Church 2011, p. 20, fig. 14) and Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 136-137; Campbell 2009, p. 72.  For the custom of bejeweled New Year’s gifts in the Middle Ages, see: Ronald W. Lightbown, Medieval European Jewellery, London 1992, pp. 71 ff.; Marian Campbell, Medieval Jewellery, London 2009, pp. 23-24; Diana Scarisbrick, Jewellery in Britain 1066-1837, Norwich 1994, pp. 35, 61, 65.

Reference number: 713

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