Roman to Renaissance: A Private Collection of Rings An exhibition of 35 rings, dating from 300 to 1600 AD, will be staged by Paris gallery Les Enluminures in London at Wartski. An extraordinary opportunity to acquire a fully documented collection.
News-Antique.com - Jan 29,2009 - Roman to Renaissance, an exhibition devoted to a private collection of thirty-five rings dating from 300 to 1600 AD, will be staged by the Paris gallery LES ENLUMINURES at the eminent London dealer Wartski, 14 Grafton Street, London W1, from Tuesday 12 to Friday 22 May 2009. The collection comprises fine examples of rings from the Merovingian, Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance periods including marriage rings, seal rings, stirrup rings, tart mould rings, iconographic rings, merchant rings and gemstone rings. This is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire a fully documented collection.
The collection was formed over twenty years by Sandra Hindman, Professor Emerita of Art History at Northwestern University, Chicago, and owner of LES ENLUMINURES, a gallery in Paris and Chicago specialising in illuminated manuscripts and works of art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Starting with a small French private collection, she has assembled a coherent group that represents the highpoints in the history of the ring from the Late Antique period to the end of the Renaissance, including key examples of museum quality.
The tradition of collecting rings dates back to the 17th century when their significance was first appreciated in Europe. Rings shed light on vanished worlds and bring their former owners and the skilled craftsmen back to life. Some rings are intensely personal, particularly betrothal, wedding and mourning rings, while others denote the status of their owners: monarchs, nobles, those who held high office in the church, for example, and rich merchants.
One of the oldest rings in the collection is an early Christian Roman gold marriage ring, circa 500, of a type that was popular in the Roman Empire and Byzantium from around the 4th to the 7th century. Engraved with a male and female bust beneath a small cross, the inscription VIVATIS (Long live) appears in reverse indicating the ring was also used as a seal (fig. 1).
From 5th century Eastern Europe is a gold cloisonné ring in the form of a rhomboid set with sliced garnets, surrounded by eight cabochon garnets, a favourite inlay at the time. It belongs to a group of some dozen rings associated with the Huns, nomadic tribes that moved from the steppes of Central Asia into Eastern Europe in the 4th century (fig. 2). A mid-6th century ‘architectural’ gold and garnet ring from Merovingian Gaul (France) is of a type mostly found in northern Gaul in the tombs of aristocratic women. It is thought that these rings, which resemble early medieval baptisteries, may be symbols of Christianity in Gaul which was converted in 496 (fig. 3).
Among the Byzantine rings is an important 11th century gold ring with Christ Pantocrator (‘all sovereign’) in relief set in a blue, cloisonné-enamelled Greek cross. The size and quality of this ring indicate that it belonged to an important person, as does the Greek inscription engraved around the gold band which translates as ‘Receive the suppliant before you, despite his sinfulness’. This puzzling inscription is otherwise only known from a 6th century