Medieval Rings

les Enluminures
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Cameo with Bust of a Young Woman Holding a Dog

Italy, 16th century; mount 18th century

Rose gold, silver, diamonds, white on translucent speckled pink agate

  • 15.500 €
  • £13,900
  • $18,000
  • Cameo with Bust of a Young Woman Holding a Dog

    Italy, 16th century; mount 18th century
    Rose gold, silver, diamonds, white on translucent speckled pink agate
    24 x 20.3 mm. (in mount)

    During the Renaissance, the ancient art of engraved gems was greatly admired and revived. These finely carved miniature works of art were worn in jewels and by the seventeenth century were set in exuberant vases, vessels and caskets. Milan and its surrounding area was the centre for fine cameo carving. These gemstones sought after at the courts of Europe show mythological scenes and heads from Antiquity, and some were adapted to Renaissance themes, as in this cameo. Symbolizing fidelity and loyalty, the young lady supports a dog in her arms, a theme found in paintings of the period. In the eighteenth century the owner had the cameo mounted in a brooch, in accordance with the fashion of the time framed by rose-cut diamonds in silver to enhance the whiteness of the stones. 

    Description:
    The oval cameo of agate shows the bust of a young woman cut in the white layer, with her torso frontal and her head with tied back hair in profile to the left gazing in the distance. Her tunic is draped over her right shoulder exposing her left breast and falls behind her neck. With her left arm which follows the outline of the stone she holds a small dog looking in the same direction to the left. The cameo is open set with a rose gold collet surrounded by thirty-two rose-cut diamonds in closed silver settings.

    Literature:
    For the motif of a young woman with dog, cf. an example in the Royal Collection of Her Majesty the Queen (Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti and John Boardman, Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels, London 2008, no. 158, 16th century) and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Eichler & Kris, Die Kameen im Kunsthistorischen Museum in Wien, Vienna 1927, no. 281).  In Renaissance painting the theme of the dog accompanying its owner becomes popular.

    Reference number: 35030

  • Diamond

    Precious, lustrous gemstones made of highly-compressed carbon, diamonds are one of the hardest materials known. Colors of diamonds range from colorless, yellow, orange, brown, to almost black. Rarer colors are red, blue, green, and purple; these colors (called fancies) are quite valuable. The largest-known gem-quality diamonds include the Cullinan (e. g., the Star of Africa, 530.20 carats), the Excelsior , the Great Mogul (an ancient Indian diamond which is said to have originally weighed 787.5 carats, but its location is unknown), the Darya-i-Nur , the Koh-i-Nur , and the Hope diamond (named for a purchaser, Henry Thomas Hope).

    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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Cameo with Bust of a Young Woman Holding a Dog

Italy, 16th century; mount 18th century
Rose gold, silver, diamonds, white on translucent speckled pink agate
24 x 20.3 mm. (in mount)

USD $18,000

During the Renaissance, the ancient art of engraved gems was greatly admired and revived. These finely carved miniature works of art were worn in jewels and by the seventeenth century were set in exuberant vases, vessels and caskets. Milan and its surrounding area was the centre for fine cameo carving. These gemstones sought after at the courts of Europe show mythological scenes and heads from Antiquity, and some were adapted to Renaissance themes, as in this cameo. Symbolizing fidelity and loyalty, the young lady supports a dog in her arms, a theme found in paintings of the period. In the eighteenth century the owner had the cameo mounted in a brooch, in accordance with the fashion of the time framed by rose-cut diamonds in silver to enhance the whiteness of the stones. 

Description:
The oval cameo of agate shows the bust of a young woman cut in the white layer, with her torso frontal and her head with tied back hair in profile to the left gazing in the distance. Her tunic is draped over her right shoulder exposing her left breast and falls behind her neck. With her left arm which follows the outline of the stone she holds a small dog looking in the same direction to the left. The cameo is open set with a rose gold collet surrounded by thirty-two rose-cut diamonds in closed silver settings.

Literature:
For the motif of a young woman with dog, cf. an example in the Royal Collection of Her Majesty the Queen (Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti and John Boardman, Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels, London 2008, no. 158, 16th century) and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (Eichler & Kris, Die Kameen im Kunsthistorischen Museum in Wien, Vienna 1927, no. 281).  In Renaissance painting the theme of the dog accompanying its owner becomes popular.

Reference number: 35030

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