Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH ST. CATHERINE

Capsule: Transylvania; medallion: Germany, c. 1475–1500

Silver, gilded silver

  • 20.600 €
  • £18,400
  • $24,000
  • RELIQUARY PENDANT WITH ST. CATHERINE

    Capsule: Transylvania; medallion: Germany, c. 1475–1500
    Silver, gilded silver
    Weight 49.6 grams; dimensions 57 × 51 × 18 mm, opens to 72 mm

    Description
    Double-sided round capsule with hinged lid and a pierced gold central medallion depicting St. Catherine with the wheel. This is framed by a concave silver border with riveted appliqué floral (missing either gemstone or enameled center) and furling foliate decoration and beaded wires. On the reverse is an inset golden medallion with engraved Crucifixion scene with the Virgin Mary and St. John and stars in the background. The outer frame is formed of two elaborately twisted strip wires with indentations, almost foliage-like in appearance.

    Provenance
    Howard Neville Collection, a dealer-collector with an interest in liturgical vestments, textiles and early works of art, his sale, London, Bonhams, 9 December 2009, lot. 6.

    Comparisons and Literature
    Related round pendant capsules seem to have been in use about 1460-1500. For an example with engraved reverse and foliate decoration from the Cistercian Nunnery in Lichtenthal, near Baden-Baden, see exh. cat., Spätmittelalter am Oberrhein 2001, pp. 236-37, no. 134, and 68-71. Further comparisons are in The Treasury of Basel Cathedral, Historisches Museum Basel (exh. cat., The Treasury of Basel Cathedral 2001, pp. 163- 65) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Lightbown 1992, p. 509, no. 50). The wires and foliage of the piece here, however, point to a Transylvanian origin. Goldsmiths’ work made by the Saxons in Transylvania (Hungary and Romania) in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was treasured and sought after; see Klusch 1988, figs. 94- 98. Perhaps the capsule was made in Transylvania, and the engraved medallion on the reverse from the Upper Rhine was inserted. Both are of the same period. The engraved Crucifixion scene is based on prints by the Master E.S., Martin Schongauer, and Albrecht Dürer. Cf. a print by Master E.S. with the Crucifixion in the Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden (Höfler 2007, vol. 1, fig. 32 and fig. 195).

    Reference number: 35002

  • 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 ST. CATHERINE

Capsule: Transylvania; medallion: Germany, c. 1475–1500
Silver, gilded silver
Weight 49.6 grams; dimensions 57 × 51 × 18 mm, opens to 72 mm

USD $24,000

Description
Double-sided round capsule with hinged lid and a pierced gold central medallion depicting St. Catherine with the wheel. This is framed by a concave silver border with riveted appliqué floral (missing either gemstone or enameled center) and furling foliate decoration and beaded wires. On the reverse is an inset golden medallion with engraved Crucifixion scene with the Virgin Mary and St. John and stars in the background. The outer frame is formed of two elaborately twisted strip wires with indentations, almost foliage-like in appearance.

Provenance
Howard Neville Collection, a dealer-collector with an interest in liturgical vestments, textiles and early works of art, his sale, London, Bonhams, 9 December 2009, lot. 6.

Comparisons and Literature
Related round pendant capsules seem to have been in use about 1460-1500. For an example with engraved reverse and foliate decoration from the Cistercian Nunnery in Lichtenthal, near Baden-Baden, see exh. cat., Spätmittelalter am Oberrhein 2001, pp. 236-37, no. 134, and 68-71. Further comparisons are in The Treasury of Basel Cathedral, Historisches Museum Basel (exh. cat., The Treasury of Basel Cathedral 2001, pp. 163- 65) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Lightbown 1992, p. 509, no. 50). The wires and foliage of the piece here, however, point to a Transylvanian origin. Goldsmiths’ work made by the Saxons in Transylvania (Hungary and Romania) in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was treasured and sought after; see Klusch 1988, figs. 94- 98. Perhaps the capsule was made in Transylvania, and the engraved medallion on the reverse from the Upper Rhine was inserted. Both are of the same period. The engraved Crucifixion scene is based on prints by the Master E.S., Martin Schongauer, and Albrecht Dürer. Cf. a print by Master E.S. with the Crucifixion in the Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden (Höfler 2007, vol. 1, fig. 32 and fig. 195).

Reference number: 35002

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