Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Memorial Ring, “Remember EP”

England, early 18th century

Gold

  • 5.200 €
  • £4,600
  • $6,000
  • Memorial Ring, “Remember EP”

    England, early 18th century
    Gold
    Weight 3.2 gr.; circumference 57.15 mm.; US size 8; UK size Q

    In the Baroque period skulls on rings were worn as a reminder of the inevitability of death as a memento mori, meaning “remember you must die”. The theme was also ever present in paintings and poetry of the time. Christians were reminded to lead a morally good life as preparation for judgment after death. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century such rings were also used as memorial rings with the additional inscribed name or initials of the deceased, date of death or even a verse. These were given to friends and family members to be worn at a funeral or as a sign of remembrance for a loved one. It was increasingly customary to specify sums of money in wills for the making and presenting of memorial rings to be distributed to the nearest and dearest. Images of skulls were traditionally combined with cross bones, hour glasses and even skeletons. The ring with its circular shape is symbolic of eternity and here the engraved scales of a snake in conjunction with the skull instead of a snake’s head, stands for eternal love, confirmed by the hidden message on the interior of the hoop “Remember EP”.        

    Description:
    Gold band with D-section, plain on the interior and on the exterior engraved with scales of a snake and a skull’s head. Engraved inside the hoop is the inscription “Remember: E:P” and an unidentified maker’s mark “IW” in a rectangular punch. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    Variations of such memorial rings can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M. 78-1960 and M158-1962); British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 1466 ff.. and AF 1304). Cf. also Nehama 2012, pp. 26-7).

    Reference number: 803

  • Band

    A ring made from a thin, often flat, ribbon-like strip of material (usually metal). The band can be unadorned or decorated.

    Hoop

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

    Engraving

    Technique of cutting patterns into a surface with a sharp tool; an impression made from the cut surface shows the design of the incised lines in reverse (hence intaglio).

    Memento Mori

    (Latin: "Think of Death"). A term to describe objects incorporating emblems of mortality, skulls, cadavers, coffins, etc., designed to remind the viewer of the inevitability of death.

  • 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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Memorial Ring, “Remember EP”

England, early 18th century
Gold
Weight 3.2 gr.; circumference 57.15 mm.; US size 8; UK size Q

USD $6,000

In the Baroque period skulls on rings were worn as a reminder of the inevitability of death as a memento mori, meaning “remember you must die”. The theme was also ever present in paintings and poetry of the time. Christians were reminded to lead a morally good life as preparation for judgment after death. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century such rings were also used as memorial rings with the additional inscribed name or initials of the deceased, date of death or even a verse. These were given to friends and family members to be worn at a funeral or as a sign of remembrance for a loved one. It was increasingly customary to specify sums of money in wills for the making and presenting of memorial rings to be distributed to the nearest and dearest. Images of skulls were traditionally combined with cross bones, hour glasses and even skeletons. The ring with its circular shape is symbolic of eternity and here the engraved scales of a snake in conjunction with the skull instead of a snake’s head, stands for eternal love, confirmed by the hidden message on the interior of the hoop “Remember EP”.        

Description:
Gold band with D-section, plain on the interior and on the exterior engraved with scales of a snake and a skull’s head. Engraved inside the hoop is the inscription “Remember: E:P” and an unidentified maker’s mark “IW” in a rectangular punch. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
Variations of such memorial rings can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M. 78-1960 and M158-1962); British Museum, London (Dalton 1912, nos. 1466 ff.. and AF 1304). Cf. also Nehama 2012, pp. 26-7).

Reference number: 803

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