Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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TRIPTYCH PENDANT WITH VIRGIN AND CHILD (MARIA LACTANS)

Italy, 17th century

Gilded copper, oil paint

  • 5.100 €
  • £4,600
  • $6,000
  • TRIPTYCH PENDANT WITH VIRGIN AND CHILD (MARIA LACTANS)

    Italy, 17th century
    Gilded copper, oil paint
    Weight 14.2 grams; dimensions 43 × 28 × 5 mm (closed); 43 × 50 × 5 mm (open)

    Description
    Gilded copper pendant in form of a miniature altarpiece with arched central panel, frame, and hinged wings. Inside is a miniature oil painting depicting the Virgin Mary suckling the Infant Jesus on her right arm. The hinged wing panels are engraved with four images of saints: the interiors of the wings with St. Clare on the left and probably St. Agatha on the right; the exteriors of the wings with two male saints: at right, a saint holding a book, perhaps St. Anthony of Padua and on the right probably St. Bernardino of Siena. At the top is a loop and ring with baluster-shaped base and peapod-shaped loop. The reverse of the pendant is engraved with a saint kneeling in a landscape, St. Francis of Assisi, and a cherub-faced angel at top.

    Comparisons and Literature
    Renaissance miniature paintings with Christian scenes set inside a polyptych jewel continued to be popular in Catholic areas from the Middle Ages into the seventeenth century, mainly in Italy, Spain, and the New World. The theme of the Virgin nursing the Infant Jesus, known as Maria lactans, first appears in the tenth century in Byzantium and in the twelfth-century mosaics of Santa Maria Trastevere in Rome (LCI, vol. 3, p. 174). The peapod-shaped pendant loop suggests a seventeenth-century date. The oil painting of the Virgin appears to be Italian. The goldsmith and miniature painter may have been inspired by a painting in a nearby church; cf., for example, a fresco in the Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paulo, Agliate, Italy. This subject is painted by  Mariotto Albertinelli (1474-1515) and Berto di Giovanni di Marco (documented 1475-1529), in Gnoli 1923, pp. 74ff.

    Reference number: 35010

  • 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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TRIPTYCH PENDANT WITH VIRGIN AND CHILD (MARIA LACTANS)

Italy, 17th century
Gilded copper, oil paint
Weight 14.2 grams; dimensions 43 × 28 × 5 mm (closed); 43 × 50 × 5 mm (open)

USD $6,000

Description
Gilded copper pendant in form of a miniature altarpiece with arched central panel, frame, and hinged wings. Inside is a miniature oil painting depicting the Virgin Mary suckling the Infant Jesus on her right arm. The hinged wing panels are engraved with four images of saints: the interiors of the wings with St. Clare on the left and probably St. Agatha on the right; the exteriors of the wings with two male saints: at right, a saint holding a book, perhaps St. Anthony of Padua and on the right probably St. Bernardino of Siena. At the top is a loop and ring with baluster-shaped base and peapod-shaped loop. The reverse of the pendant is engraved with a saint kneeling in a landscape, St. Francis of Assisi, and a cherub-faced angel at top.

Comparisons and Literature
Renaissance miniature paintings with Christian scenes set inside a polyptych jewel continued to be popular in Catholic areas from the Middle Ages into the seventeenth century, mainly in Italy, Spain, and the New World. The theme of the Virgin nursing the Infant Jesus, known as Maria lactans, first appears in the tenth century in Byzantium and in the twelfth-century mosaics of Santa Maria Trastevere in Rome (LCI, vol. 3, p. 174). The peapod-shaped pendant loop suggests a seventeenth-century date. The oil painting of the Virgin appears to be Italian. The goldsmith and miniature painter may have been inspired by a painting in a nearby church; cf., for example, a fresco in the Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paulo, Agliate, Italy. This subject is painted by  Mariotto Albertinelli (1474-1515) and Berto di Giovanni di Marco (documented 1475-1529), in Gnoli 1923, pp. 74ff.

Reference number: 35010

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