Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RELIQUARY PENDANT IN BOOK FORM

Southern Germany, probably Augsburg, c. 1550

Gilded silver, verre églomisé

  • 18.700 €
  • £16,600
  • $22,000
  • RELIQUARY PENDANT IN BOOK FORM

    Southern Germany, probably Augsburg, c. 1550
    Gilded silver, verre églomisé
    Weight 14.1 grams; dimensions 35 × 29 × 13 mm

    Description
    Gilded silver pendant in book form with hinged lid, corded wire surround, and engraved spine. The front cover of the book is set with a glass plaque depicting the Nativity in verre églomisé; the back cover shows the Annunciation. When opened, inside is Christ as Ecce Homo under a trefoiled arch, and opposite is a relic (missing) surrounded by a golden aureole against a red background. Trefoil-shaped pendant loop on top and bottom, and book clasp.

    Comparisons and Literature
    Known examples of such book pendants date from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, and the attributions vary from Spain and Italy to southern Germany. A center in southern Germany, such as Nuremberg or Augsburg, seems more likely for the goldsmiths’ work. The technique of verre églomisé was practiced in various western European countries, foremost in southern Germany, northern Switzerland Spain, and Italy; see Ryser 1991. For the Birth of Christ scene in verre églomisé (50026), cf. an example in the Ryser Collection (Ryser/Salmen 1997, no. F 11, Nuremberg 1550-75). Examples of these book pendants, which appear to come from the same region and have the same trefoil-shaped pendant loops, are in the Walters ArtMuseum, Baltimore  (Scarisbrick 1979, no. 513); Courtauld Gallery, London (O.1966.GP.274, “A Pendant in the Form of a Book,” in Illuminating Objects, online exhibition, courtauld.ac.uk.); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M.66-1923 and 179-1872); Ryser Collection in the Vitromusée Romont (Ryser/Salmen 1997, no. F 13); Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (D 4309, Schott/Volk 1988, no. 12); and the Green Vaults, Dresden (V 606). A variant with silver engraved scenes from the life of Christ is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and made in Nuremberg in 1512 (Wilson/Winterbottom 2015, pp. 30-31). See also R. Forrer 1942, pp. 5-8.

    Reference number: 50026

  • 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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ring

RELIQUARY PENDANT IN BOOK FORM

Southern Germany, probably Augsburg, c. 1550
Gilded silver, verre églomisé
Weight 14.1 grams; dimensions 35 × 29 × 13 mm

USD $22,000

Description
Gilded silver pendant in book form with hinged lid, corded wire surround, and engraved spine. The front cover of the book is set with a glass plaque depicting the Nativity in verre églomisé; the back cover shows the Annunciation. When opened, inside is Christ as Ecce Homo under a trefoiled arch, and opposite is a relic (missing) surrounded by a golden aureole against a red background. Trefoil-shaped pendant loop on top and bottom, and book clasp.

Comparisons and Literature
Known examples of such book pendants date from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, and the attributions vary from Spain and Italy to southern Germany. A center in southern Germany, such as Nuremberg or Augsburg, seems more likely for the goldsmiths’ work. The technique of verre églomisé was practiced in various western European countries, foremost in southern Germany, northern Switzerland Spain, and Italy; see Ryser 1991. For the Birth of Christ scene in verre églomisé (50026), cf. an example in the Ryser Collection (Ryser/Salmen 1997, no. F 11, Nuremberg 1550-75). Examples of these book pendants, which appear to come from the same region and have the same trefoil-shaped pendant loops, are in the Walters ArtMuseum, Baltimore  (Scarisbrick 1979, no. 513); Courtauld Gallery, London (O.1966.GP.274, “A Pendant in the Form of a Book,” in Illuminating Objects, online exhibition, courtauld.ac.uk.); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M.66-1923 and 179-1872); Ryser Collection in the Vitromusée Romont (Ryser/Salmen 1997, no. F 13); Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (D 4309, Schott/Volk 1988, no. 12); and the Green Vaults, Dresden (V 606). A variant with silver engraved scenes from the life of Christ is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and made in Nuremberg in 1512 (Wilson/Winterbottom 2015, pp. 30-31). See also R. Forrer 1942, pp. 5-8.

Reference number: 50026

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