Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RENAISSANCE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT CAMEO

Italy (?), 16th-17th century

Gold and white agate

  • 10.700 €
  • £9,300
  • $12,000
  • RENAISSANCE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT CAMEO

    Italy (?), 16th-17th century
    Gold and white agate
    Weight 10.8 gr; circumference 54.4 mm; size US 7; UK N½

    The Renaissance welcomed a revival in the ancient art of gem carving and cameos achieved renewed popularity. Important patrons, like the Medici, employed artists and goldsmiths to make dozens of beautiful examples that harkened back to antiquity and displayed current fashions. Double portraits of a man and woman, as with this ring, are called marriage portraits. They take their form from cameos of Roman rulers, mythological lovers, and citizen couples.

    Description
    Substantial rounded D-section hoop, narrowing at the base supports an oblong collet set with a white agate cameo. The cameo features a female bust behind a male bust in profile facing to the viewer’s left. The man has a curly beard, wears a fillet in his closely cropped hair, and wears a draped toga; the woman is less well defined and wears a palla. Both portraits have flat features. The carving has a metallic quality to its lines which enhances the sheen of the stone. The cameo is in excellent condition; the mount is modern.

    Literature
    This couple could be a sixteenth-century copy of an ancient gem or it could represent a Renaissnce couple in the guise of a Roman couple. The features do not point to any well-known couples. A double portrait cameo in the Royal Collection (RCIN 65861) provides a nice comparison to this ring and is from the same period. For an ancient example of the double portrait cameo see the Metropolitan Museum’s Germanicus and Agrippina (39.22.18) cameo. Another comparison, see the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (a 17th-century cameo with the double portrait of a couple in a three-layered agate, published in Babelon, 1897, n. 1019). For general information on Renaissance cameos see Henig et al, 1994; Kris, 1930; and Cameo Appearances, 2008.

    Reference number: 340-2

  • Agate

    Striped version of chalcedony quartz, agate forms in layers in many colors and textures by filling in an indentation or cavity in another rock and is frequently used to carve cameos.

    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 MARRIAGE PORTRAIT CAMEO

Italy (?), 16th-17th century
Gold and white agate
Weight 10.8 gr; circumference 54.4 mm; size US 7; UK N½

USD $12,000

The Renaissance welcomed a revival in the ancient art of gem carving and cameos achieved renewed popularity. Important patrons, like the Medici, employed artists and goldsmiths to make dozens of beautiful examples that harkened back to antiquity and displayed current fashions. Double portraits of a man and woman, as with this ring, are called marriage portraits. They take their form from cameos of Roman rulers, mythological lovers, and citizen couples.

Description
Substantial rounded D-section hoop, narrowing at the base supports an oblong collet set with a white agate cameo. The cameo features a female bust behind a male bust in profile facing to the viewer’s left. The man has a curly beard, wears a fillet in his closely cropped hair, and wears a draped toga; the woman is less well defined and wears a palla. Both portraits have flat features. The carving has a metallic quality to its lines which enhances the sheen of the stone. The cameo is in excellent condition; the mount is modern.

Literature
This couple could be a sixteenth-century copy of an ancient gem or it could represent a Renaissnce couple in the guise of a Roman couple. The features do not point to any well-known couples. A double portrait cameo in the Royal Collection (RCIN 65861) provides a nice comparison to this ring and is from the same period. For an ancient example of the double portrait cameo see the Metropolitan Museum’s Germanicus and Agrippina (39.22.18) cameo. Another comparison, see the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (a 17th-century cameo with the double portrait of a couple in a three-layered agate, published in Babelon, 1897, n. 1019). For general information on Renaissance cameos see Henig et al, 1994; Kris, 1930; and Cameo Appearances, 2008.

Reference number: 340-2

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