Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CHRIST ON THE CROSS

Germany, c. 1480–1500

Gilded silver

  • 30.000 €
  • £26,800
  • $35,000
  • RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CHRIST ON THE CROSS

    Germany, c. 1480–1500
    Gilded silver
    Weight 35 grams; dimensions 69 × 46 × 8 mm

    Description
    The centerpiece of this gilded silver pendant is a flat rectangular box engraved on both sides with a cross on Golgotha Hill against a cross-hatched background. On the front panel is the figure of Christ on the Cross in high relief. The backplate is hinged and, when opened, reveals a compartment for relics (the hinge pin missing). The cross form is emphasized by four trefoil-shaped arms with Gothic foliage. 

    Comparisons and Literature 
    This rare reliquary pendant is probably German. The design and details, such as the Gothic foliage, suggests that the goldsmith was inspired by the prints of Martin Schongauer (c. 1430/50-1491) and Master E.S. (c. 1450-1467); cf. exh. cat., Ornemanistes du XVe au XVIIe siècle 1987, nos. 8-9 and 10-13; Berliner 1925, vol. 1, figs. 5-10. This style of foliage can be found on various reliquaries and vessels of the period between 1480 and 1500, even on the print of an incense holder designed by Schongauer; see Fritz 1982, cat. no. 611, and further example of the period, cat. no. 760. The Christ figure with deeply angled legs is also reminiscent of depictions in Master E.S. and Schongauer prints; see Höfler 2007, figs. 30 and 32, 195.

    Reference number: 35003

  • 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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RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH CHRIST ON THE CROSS

Germany, c. 1480–1500
Gilded silver
Weight 35 grams; dimensions 69 × 46 × 8 mm

USD $35,000

Description
The centerpiece of this gilded silver pendant is a flat rectangular box engraved on both sides with a cross on Golgotha Hill against a cross-hatched background. On the front panel is the figure of Christ on the Cross in high relief. The backplate is hinged and, when opened, reveals a compartment for relics (the hinge pin missing). The cross form is emphasized by four trefoil-shaped arms with Gothic foliage. 

Comparisons and Literature 
This rare reliquary pendant is probably German. The design and details, such as the Gothic foliage, suggests that the goldsmith was inspired by the prints of Martin Schongauer (c. 1430/50-1491) and Master E.S. (c. 1450-1467); cf. exh. cat., Ornemanistes du XVe au XVIIe siècle 1987, nos. 8-9 and 10-13; Berliner 1925, vol. 1, figs. 5-10. This style of foliage can be found on various reliquaries and vessels of the period between 1480 and 1500, even on the print of an incense holder designed by Schongauer; see Fritz 1982, cat. no. 611, and further example of the period, cat. no. 760. The Christ figure with deeply angled legs is also reminiscent of depictions in Master E.S. and Schongauer prints; see Höfler 2007, figs. 30 and 32, 195.

Reference number: 35003

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