Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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A DELICATE KNOT RING WHOSE ENTWINED GOLD WIRE WAS AN EMBLEM OF THE FAITHFUL LOVE BETWEEN LOVER AND BELOVED

France, 15th century

Gold

  • 3.400 €
  • £3,100
  • $4,000
  • A DELICATE KNOT RING WHOSE ENTWINED GOLD WIRE WAS AN EMBLEM OF THE FAITHFUL LOVE BETWEEN LOVER AND BELOVED

    France, 15th century
    Gold
    Bezel 9 x 5 x 4 mm.; circumference 46; weight 0.9 gr.; US size 4; UK size H

    This is a type of belt ring, differing from known examples because the buckle terminates in a loop rather than a strap.  Most extant belt rings are 14th-century English and were evidently sold to pilgrims at a shrine. This distinctive type may imply a love knot like the Heracles knot of late Antiquity.

    Description
    A single thin gold wire decorated with gold dots on the hoop and terminating on one side with a belt buckle and on the other with a knot. In excellent condition.

    Literature
    For comparisons, see London, Victoria and Albert Museum, N.225-1962 (inscribed belt ring, from the Joan Evans Collection; published in Oman, 1974, 75G); and London, British Museum AF 882 (bronze belt ring, found in Suffolk in 1853; published in Ward, 1981, no. 146).

    Reference number: 427

  • Gothic

    With the rise of towns and the establishment of a money economy in western Europe, the fabrication of rings grew into an urban trade. In 1180, the Goldsmith's Company was founded in London, and in 1200, Jean de Garlande describes the craftsmen setting jewels into rings on the Grand Pont in Paris. Certain new types of rings evolved and were commercially made in large numbers for all levels of society. In France in 1283, then in London in 1337, 1363, and 1463, and elsewhere, sumptuary laws were passed forbidding townspeople from wearing precious stones, but it is unlikely these regulations were strictly observed.

    Medieval rings are typically set with uncut but polished stones (called cabochons) because the stone itself was considered God's creation, not to be altered artificially by man. For the same reason, there was a taboo about the mixing of colors in the workshops of painters and their assistants. Two types of rings abound in the Gothic era. The first is the stirrup ring, made in the shape of a horse's stirrup and nearly always set with a cabochon sapphire. Many of these have been discovered in the tombs of the bishops for whom they were made. The second is the tart mold ring, adorned with different precious stones in a box or circular setting the underside of which resembles a pie plate. Other types of rings also proliferate: for example, nominative rings with circular inscriptions used for sealing, black letter rings with amatory sayings on the bands, iconographic rings with standing figures of saints that served to protect the wearer, etc. Claw and box settings both occur in Gothic rings, but eventually the claw setting naturally evolves into the most popular late Gothic type of gemstone ring, the cusped ring, in which the collet consists of decorated lobes between the remnants of claws. It is this type of ring that continues into the early Renaissance and occurs in Gerard David's painting.

    An art history of medieval rings has yet to be written (see, however, Hindman et al., 2007), but a few preliminary observations can nevertheless be made. The streamlined form of the stirrup ring, arching upward to the bezel that forms an integral part of it, recalls the aesthetic of the unification of the wall in Gothic cathedrals with the ribs springing seamlessly to the arched vaults. Tart mould rings take inspiration from the architectonic forms of capitals and their bases. The ridged bezel of the iconographic ring adorned with standing saints in niello reiterates in miniature format the closed wings of a painted altarpiece, its figures painted in grisaille. Iconographic rings, as well as other devotional types of rings, find their parallels in the suffrages, or prayers of protection to special saints that accompany Books of Hours.

  • ring
  • ring
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ring

A DELICATE KNOT RING WHOSE ENTWINED GOLD WIRE WAS AN EMBLEM OF THE FAITHFUL LOVE BETWEEN LOVER AND BELOVED

France, 15th century
Gold
Bezel 9 x 5 x 4 mm.; circumference 46; weight 0.9 gr.; US size 4; UK size H

USD $4,000

This is a type of belt ring, differing from known examples because the buckle terminates in a loop rather than a strap.  Most extant belt rings are 14th-century English and were evidently sold to pilgrims at a shrine. This distinctive type may imply a love knot like the Heracles knot of late Antiquity.

Description
A single thin gold wire decorated with gold dots on the hoop and terminating on one side with a belt buckle and on the other with a knot. In excellent condition.

Literature
For comparisons, see London, Victoria and Albert Museum, N.225-1962 (inscribed belt ring, from the Joan Evans Collection; published in Oman, 1974, 75G); and London, British Museum AF 882 (bronze belt ring, found in Suffolk in 1853; published in Ward, 1981, no. 146).

Reference number: 427

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