Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Posy Ring, "Meekenes merits mercy"

England, 17th century

Gold, enamel

  • 4.100 €
  • £3,600
  • $5,000
  • Posy Ring, "Meekenes merits mercy"

    England, 17th century
    Gold, enamel
    Weight: 2.6 gr.; circumference 53.82, US size 6.75, UK size N ½

    ‘Posy rings’, their name deriving from the term poesie or poetry, are rings with inscriptions on a plain gold band, either in prose or verse. Short, rhyming poems called “posies” were prevalent from the late medieval period, serving as expressions of sentiment. Such tokens of affection with short verses led to poetic compendia or commonplace books, like Loues Garland, or Posies for Rings, Hand-Kerchers, and Gloues, and such pretty Tokens that Louers send their Loues, in1624, Cupids Posies in 1674, and The Card of Courtship in 1715.  During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries amatory mottos with devotional sentiment in posy rings became increasingly popular given between friends, relatives and lovers and also as betrothal rings and during wedding ceremonies as confirmation of the union. The message often concealed inside the hoop was only known to the giver and recipient.  

    Description:
    The solid gold band with D-section bears inside the engraved inscription “Meekenes merits mercy” in italic script. The rounded exterior is richly ornamented with floral patterns in opaque green and white enamel and column motifs repeating three times, with a longer column a fourth time, entwined by symmetrical scroll motifs.  The enamel is missing through age and wear. The ring is in good wearable condition.

    Literature:
    The motto appears to be unique and may have had a personal significance to original wearer. The meaning behind meekness can have various interpretations, grace, submission to God, or in a more secular context patient endurance. In Joan Evans’ compendium of posies (1931) there is no record of this motto. For similarly ornate posy rings with floral decoration on the exterior, cf. some examples in the British Museum, London (1961,1202.445; 2002,0501.1 and Dalton 1328). 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: 860

  • Band

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

    Bezel

    The upper, protruding part of a finger ring (excluding the hoop and the shoulders) often set with a gemstone.

    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 .

    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).

    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, "Meekenes merits mercy"

England, 17th century
Gold, enamel
Weight: 2.6 gr.; circumference 53.82, US size 6.75, UK size N ½

USD $5,000

‘Posy rings’, their name deriving from the term poesie or poetry, are rings with inscriptions on a plain gold band, either in prose or verse. Short, rhyming poems called “posies” were prevalent from the late medieval period, serving as expressions of sentiment. Such tokens of affection with short verses led to poetic compendia or commonplace books, like Loues Garland, or Posies for Rings, Hand-Kerchers, and Gloues, and such pretty Tokens that Louers send their Loues, in1624, Cupids Posies in 1674, and The Card of Courtship in 1715.  During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries amatory mottos with devotional sentiment in posy rings became increasingly popular given between friends, relatives and lovers and also as betrothal rings and during wedding ceremonies as confirmation of the union. The message often concealed inside the hoop was only known to the giver and recipient.  

Description:
The solid gold band with D-section bears inside the engraved inscription “Meekenes merits mercy” in italic script. The rounded exterior is richly ornamented with floral patterns in opaque green and white enamel and column motifs repeating three times, with a longer column a fourth time, entwined by symmetrical scroll motifs.  The enamel is missing through age and wear. The ring is in good wearable condition.

Literature:
The motto appears to be unique and may have had a personal significance to original wearer. The meaning behind meekness can have various interpretations, grace, submission to God, or in a more secular context patient endurance. In Joan Evans’ compendium of posies (1931) there is no record of this motto. For similarly ornate posy rings with floral decoration on the exterior, cf. some examples in the British Museum, London (1961,1202.445; 2002,0501.1 and Dalton 1328). 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: 860

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