Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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MAGIC BELT

Spain (Castile), 17th century

Brocaded velvet, gold thread, silver, enamel, jet, rock crystal, castaña de Indias

  • 123.100 €
  • £107,500
  • $145,000
  • MAGIC BELT

    Spain (Castile), 17th century
    Brocaded velvet, gold thread, silver, enamel, jet, rock crystal, castaña de Indias
    Textile: late 13th century, coins and medals: 10th -19th century Weight 226.5 grams; belt 735 × 30-50 mm; figa 90 × 30 x 14 mm; skull 40 × 41 × 35 mm; nut 62 × 30 × 116 mm

    The belt is formed of a brocaded red velvet textile with discs of gold thread. Twenty-eight silver coins are sewn onto the belt (two are eighteenth-century Moroccan, the rest from al-Andalus, a single coin dating from the tenth century and the others to the fourteenth century, and with a single nineteenth-century silver medal). Three pendants are suspended from the belt and attached to parts of a rosary made of silver links, the mounts with black and white enamel and round jet beads. The jet beads are carved with stylized foliage and memento mori, with the head of Christ or the Virgin Mary and a skull. Three attached pendants are a tropical nut (castaña de Indias) with silver figa pendants and a single Virgin Mary pendant, a carved rock crystal skull, and an ornate fist with figa carved in jet. The belt appears to have been further embellished with hooked clasps. The thread used to secure some of these embellishments suggests that the belt was repaired towards the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century.

    Provenance
    Originally gifted to the Virgin in the Church of Herrera de Pisuerga (Palencia) in 1945; then Madrid, Subastas Segre, 2005, no. 4; private European collection.

    Comparisons and Literature
    So-called magic belts, also known as “Virgin belts,” were often presented to a venerated image of the Virgin as votive offerings. Others were worn and adapted—like this one—to include personal amulets of the owner. For a magical belt of the seventeenth century, cf. an example in the Museo Sorolla, Madrid (exh. cat., La Joyería Española 1998, no. 12, described as a belt for lactation). For a similar rosary, see an example in the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, Madrid (Franco Mata 2005, fig. 34).
    The tropical nut known as castaña de Indias is an amulet worn by children, also popular in South America; cf. a seventeenth-century example in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (Hansmann and Kriss-Rettenbeck 1999, p. 109, fig. 120). See further examples in the Museo del Pueblo Español, Madrid (Alarcon Roman 1987, p. 61, no. 1.917; p. 70, no. 3.044, p. 98, no. 9.884) and in the Museo Diocesano de Cuenca (Gonzalez 2005, pp. 22, 30, and 85 including a painting of 1673 by Baltasar Manuel Blanco Bernal, in which a nut is worn on a belt by a child). Rock crystal skulls were attached to rosaries; see an example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 17.190.323) and the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid (Arbeteta Mira 2003, no. 15).

    The figa (higa in Spanish), was a popular amulet in Spain, where they were often made of jet; see various examples in the Museo del Pueblo Español, Madrid (Alarcon Roman 1987, p. 68, no. 2.551; p. 79, no. 7376); Franco 2001, pp. 210-23; Subasta de Amuletos y Joyas Populares 2005, pp. 52-53. Other seventeenth-century examples are in the Museo Archeológico Nacional, Madrid (Franco Mata 1986, figs. 33-36, figs. 37-38 and figs. 39-41); Hispanic Society of America, New York (Proske 1966, fig. 4) and Muller 1987, fig. 6.18).

    The velvet with gold discs is of Islamic origin. An identical textile fragment in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Dudley P. Allan Fund 1918.225) is from Iran and dates to the late 1200s, thought to be from Tabriz during the Ilkhanid Period; an inventory of Pope Benedict VIII dated to 1295 describes such a velvet. This velvet design belongs to the earliest known type; see Sonday 1999-2000, pp. 101-51.

    Reference number: 35025

  • Rock crystal

    Transparent , crystalline mineral, rock crystal is the purest form of quartz and a semi-precious stone. Rock crystal came from Germany, Switzerland, and France in the medieval era.

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • 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.

     

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MAGIC BELT

Spain (Castile), 17th century
Brocaded velvet, gold thread, silver, enamel, jet, rock crystal, castaña de Indias
Textile: late 13th century, coins and medals: 10th -19th century Weight 226.5 grams; belt 735 × 30-50 mm; figa 90 × 30 x 14 mm; skull 40 × 41 × 35 mm; nut 62 × 30 × 116 mm

USD $145,000

The belt is formed of a brocaded red velvet textile with discs of gold thread. Twenty-eight silver coins are sewn onto the belt (two are eighteenth-century Moroccan, the rest from al-Andalus, a single coin dating from the tenth century and the others to the fourteenth century, and with a single nineteenth-century silver medal). Three pendants are suspended from the belt and attached to parts of a rosary made of silver links, the mounts with black and white enamel and round jet beads. The jet beads are carved with stylized foliage and memento mori, with the head of Christ or the Virgin Mary and a skull. Three attached pendants are a tropical nut (castaña de Indias) with silver figa pendants and a single Virgin Mary pendant, a carved rock crystal skull, and an ornate fist with figa carved in jet. The belt appears to have been further embellished with hooked clasps. The thread used to secure some of these embellishments suggests that the belt was repaired towards the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Provenance
Originally gifted to the Virgin in the Church of Herrera de Pisuerga (Palencia) in 1945; then Madrid, Subastas Segre, 2005, no. 4; private European collection.

Comparisons and Literature
So-called magic belts, also known as “Virgin belts,” were often presented to a venerated image of the Virgin as votive offerings. Others were worn and adapted—like this one—to include personal amulets of the owner. For a magical belt of the seventeenth century, cf. an example in the Museo Sorolla, Madrid (exh. cat., La Joyería Española 1998, no. 12, described as a belt for lactation). For a similar rosary, see an example in the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, Madrid (Franco Mata 2005, fig. 34).
The tropical nut known as castaña de Indias is an amulet worn by children, also popular in South America; cf. a seventeenth-century example in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (Hansmann and Kriss-Rettenbeck 1999, p. 109, fig. 120). See further examples in the Museo del Pueblo Español, Madrid (Alarcon Roman 1987, p. 61, no. 1.917; p. 70, no. 3.044, p. 98, no. 9.884) and in the Museo Diocesano de Cuenca (Gonzalez 2005, pp. 22, 30, and 85 including a painting of 1673 by Baltasar Manuel Blanco Bernal, in which a nut is worn on a belt by a child). Rock crystal skulls were attached to rosaries; see an example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 17.190.323) and the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid (Arbeteta Mira 2003, no. 15).

The figa (higa in Spanish), was a popular amulet in Spain, where they were often made of jet; see various examples in the Museo del Pueblo Español, Madrid (Alarcon Roman 1987, p. 68, no. 2.551; p. 79, no. 7376); Franco 2001, pp. 210-23; Subasta de Amuletos y Joyas Populares 2005, pp. 52-53. Other seventeenth-century examples are in the Museo Archeológico Nacional, Madrid (Franco Mata 1986, figs. 33-36, figs. 37-38 and figs. 39-41); Hispanic Society of America, New York (Proske 1966, fig. 4) and Muller 1987, fig. 6.18).

The velvet with gold discs is of Islamic origin. An identical textile fragment in the Cleveland Museum of Art (Dudley P. Allan Fund 1918.225) is from Iran and dates to the late 1200s, thought to be from Tabriz during the Ilkhanid Period; an inventory of Pope Benedict VIII dated to 1295 describes such a velvet. This velvet design belongs to the earliest known type; see Sonday 1999-2000, pp. 101-51.

Reference number: 35025

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