Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RENAISSANCE CAMEO OF GALBA (?)

Europe, 17th (?) century

Gold and onyx

  • 8.500 €
  • £7,500
  • $10,000
  • RENAISSANCE CAMEO OF GALBA (?)

    Europe, 17th (?) century
    Gold and onyx
    Weight 10.2 gr; circumference 51.8 mm; size: US 6; UK L½

    First in the “Year of the Four Emperors,” Galba (Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus) only held power for seven months before he was assassinated in January 69. Imperial sculptures and coins of Galba, like this cameo, present a man with rather tough features and a severe look: his chin hooks up toward a boxer’s nose that seem to oppose his loose jowls and thick neck. The stone’s qualities are used to give the cameo an uncanny naturalism that is not present in other mediums.

    Description
    Substantial D-section hoop in brushed gold supports an oval bezel set with an onyx (white upper layer, translucent beige lower layer). The carving depicts a man in profile facing to the viewer’s right. The surface is carved with a wonderful variety of depth lending a naturalistic sense of skin, muscle and fat that plays with the whiteness of the onyx’s top layer. The man wears his hair in an imperial style, but the headdress appears to be a fillet, not a laurel. The cameo is in excellent condition; the setting is modern.

    Literature
    A Renaissance coin of Galba in the Metropolitan Museum of Art displays a similar profile (09.194.25 b).  See also a gold aureus in the Art Institute of Chicago (1922.4864), a silver denarius RIC 224. BMCRE 12. Sear RCV 2102 var). See also two Renaissance cameo examples in the Medici Collection (no.s 82 and 233, Tondo and Vanni, 1990). There is another sixteenth-century cameo in the British Museum (1867, 0507.515, published in Dalton 1915, no. 330) and one in the Royal Collection (RCIN 43761). For general information on Renaissance cameos see Henig et al, 1994; Kris, 1930; and Cameo Appearances, 2008.

    Reference number: 336-3

  • Onyx

    Onyx is a semi-precious stone described as a solid black chalcedony. Onyx is used in carved cameos and intaglios because its layers can be cut to show a colour contrast between the design and the background.

    Birthstone

    January-Garnet: Safe travel and a speedy homecoming
    February-Amethyst: Power to overcome difficulties
    March-Jasper: Courage
    April-Diamond: Everlasting love
    May-Emerald: Love and fidelity
    June- Pearl: Purity, Celebrate a birth
    July- Ruby: Prosperity (if worn on the left hand); Everlasting love (if worn on the right)
    August-Peridot and Sardonyx: Strength and growth; Happiness in a relationship
    September-Sapphire: Sincerity and faithfulness
    October-Opal and Tourmaline: Confidence and hope
    November-Citrine and Yellow Topaz: Strength and friendship
    December-Turquoise: Protects against evil and ill health

  • Cameo

    Relief carving (a carving that comes up above the surface) on a shell or stone. In multi-colored cameos, a layered substrate is used (with two different colors), and when part of the upper layer is carved away, the second color emerges as the background.

  • 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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RENAISSANCE CAMEO OF GALBA (?)

Europe, 17th (?) century
Gold and onyx
Weight 10.2 gr; circumference 51.8 mm; size: US 6; UK L½

USD $10,000

First in the “Year of the Four Emperors,” Galba (Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus) only held power for seven months before he was assassinated in January 69. Imperial sculptures and coins of Galba, like this cameo, present a man with rather tough features and a severe look: his chin hooks up toward a boxer’s nose that seem to oppose his loose jowls and thick neck. The stone’s qualities are used to give the cameo an uncanny naturalism that is not present in other mediums.

Description
Substantial D-section hoop in brushed gold supports an oval bezel set with an onyx (white upper layer, translucent beige lower layer). The carving depicts a man in profile facing to the viewer’s right. The surface is carved with a wonderful variety of depth lending a naturalistic sense of skin, muscle and fat that plays with the whiteness of the onyx’s top layer. The man wears his hair in an imperial style, but the headdress appears to be a fillet, not a laurel. The cameo is in excellent condition; the setting is modern.

Literature
A Renaissance coin of Galba in the Metropolitan Museum of Art displays a similar profile (09.194.25 b).  See also a gold aureus in the Art Institute of Chicago (1922.4864), a silver denarius RIC 224. BMCRE 12. Sear RCV 2102 var). See also two Renaissance cameo examples in the Medici Collection (no.s 82 and 233, Tondo and Vanni, 1990). There is another sixteenth-century cameo in the British Museum (1867, 0507.515, published in Dalton 1915, no. 330) and one in the Royal Collection (RCIN 43761). For general information on Renaissance cameos see Henig et al, 1994; Kris, 1930; and Cameo Appearances, 2008.

Reference number: 336-3

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