Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Posy Ring, “God’s decree well pleaseth me”

England, late 17th century

Gold

  • 4.900 €
  • £4,200
  • $5,500
  • Posy Ring, “God’s decree well pleaseth me”

    England, late 17th century
    Gold
    Weight 6.8 gr.; circumference: 51.87 mm.; US size 6; UK size M

    “Posy rings,” their name deriving from the term poesie or poetry, are rings with love poems or mottoes either in prose or verse. Their secret message hidden inside a plain gold band, which in itself, symbolizes eternity, were only known to the giver and recipient. Such posy rings often claim God as the origin of a giver’s tender affections and in ceremonies of betrothal and marriage, the “appointment” of God refers to the sanction of love within marriage. The use of an inscribed gold band as a marriage ring became particularly popular during the Commonwealth under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649-1653 and 1659-1660) when the ascendancy of the Puritans in England discouraged any extravagant displays of luxury through wedding rings adorned with colorful enamels and gemstones.

    Description:
    This relatively heavy wide gold band is constructed in a D-section that bears inside the inscription “God’s decree well pleaseth me” attractively engraved in italic script. The ring is in good condition. The maker’s mark in a rectangular punch inside the hoop shows the initials “RN” in Gothic lettering, and is possibly the mark for Richard Netter. In the British Museum there is a posy ring (AF 1338) with the identical mark. It is thought to be that of Richard Netter who registered his mark at the Goldsmiths’ Company in London in 1694 and was active in 1696 (the date of death is unrecorded). A ring in the Museum of London (A 19880) shows the same mark.  

    Literature
    Joan Evans records three variations of this posy (Evans 1931, p. 44).  One example bearing this motto is in the British Museum (AF 1176, probably after 1676) and the others quoted belonged to the author and her family.  For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

    Reference number: 730

  • 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.

     

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Posy Ring, “God’s decree well pleaseth me”

England, late 17th century
Gold
Weight 6.8 gr.; circumference: 51.87 mm.; US size 6; UK size M

USD $5,500

“Posy rings,” their name deriving from the term poesie or poetry, are rings with love poems or mottoes either in prose or verse. Their secret message hidden inside a plain gold band, which in itself, symbolizes eternity, were only known to the giver and recipient. Such posy rings often claim God as the origin of a giver’s tender affections and in ceremonies of betrothal and marriage, the “appointment” of God refers to the sanction of love within marriage. The use of an inscribed gold band as a marriage ring became particularly popular during the Commonwealth under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649-1653 and 1659-1660) when the ascendancy of the Puritans in England discouraged any extravagant displays of luxury through wedding rings adorned with colorful enamels and gemstones.

Description:
This relatively heavy wide gold band is constructed in a D-section that bears inside the inscription “God’s decree well pleaseth me” attractively engraved in italic script. The ring is in good condition. The maker’s mark in a rectangular punch inside the hoop shows the initials “RN” in Gothic lettering, and is possibly the mark for Richard Netter. In the British Museum there is a posy ring (AF 1338) with the identical mark. It is thought to be that of Richard Netter who registered his mark at the Goldsmiths’ Company in London in 1694 and was active in 1696 (the date of death is unrecorded). A ring in the Museum of London (A 19880) shows the same mark.  

Literature
Joan Evans records three variations of this posy (Evans 1931, p. 44).  One example bearing this motto is in the British Museum (AF 1176, probably after 1676) and the others quoted belonged to the author and her family.  For a history of posy rings with extensive list of posies, see Evans, 1931 and Anon., A Garland of Love: A Collection of Posy-Ring Mottoes, London 1907. For further information, see Dalton 1912, pp. 174 ff.; Scarisbrick 2007, pp. 74 ff., Taylor and Scarisbrick 1978, and Oman 1974, pp. 39 ff.

Reference number: 730

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