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.
ivory consular diptych associated with Emperor Justinian in the British Museum (fig. 4).
Gothic examples include a magnificent gold stirrup ring set with a cabochon sapphire and engraved with the initials E and N on each side. Known as a bishop’s ring, it is English or possibly French, circa 1200 (fig. 5). Another fine Gothic ring is a 13th century gold signet ring from France or Italy. The perimeter of the oval bezel is engraved in Lombardic letters in Latin with the New Testament text ‘John is his name’ and the centre is set with a classical intaglio of a Roman in profile carved in a deep red carnelian (fig. 6). An early 15th century English Gothic ring is an especially fine example of a devotional ‘Iconographic’ ring. The bezel is engraved with a triptych, the Throne of Mercy flanked by the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary of the Annunciation, and the interior is engraved in Gothic script LOYAL SUI (I am loyal, or faithful) (fig. 7).
Wonderful Renaissance rings include a rare and beautiful mid-15th century ring from French-Flanders in the Gothic International Style, probably made at the French court. The gold ring combines small clusters of seed pearls, purchased from Baghdad merchants, with three rectangular gold plaques of imaginative figural motifs set in translucent red enamel (fig. 8). A 15th century Northern European gold cusped ring widens at the shoulders to a large octagonal bezel set with a polished orange hessonite garnet held in place by gold prongs. Such cusped rings mark the start of an era increasingly interested in showing off precious stones and their popularity is evident in the many paintings that feature them (fig. 9).
A German Renaissance gold merchant’s ring, dated 1564, is exceptionally rare. It has a swivel bezel with an engraved merchant’s mark on one side and a Crucifixion with Mary and John on the other carved from rock crystal over foil, a virtuoso Renaissance technique. The Greek inscription on the hoop KYRIE ELEISON (Lord have mercy) is an unusual feature. The owner would have been a wealthy merchant, a devout believer and a humanist scholar similar to the German members of the Hanseatic League in London painted by Hans Holbein the Younger (fig. 10).
The exhibition will be complemented by a lecture programme and a catalogue in English published by Paul Holberton, London, with an introduction by Diana Scarisbrick, the renowned jewellery historian. Organised chronologically, Sandra Hindman’s descriptions offer comparisons with rings in major public collections and place each one in its art-historical context. Ilaria Fatone, art historian and Director of LES ENLUMINURES, discusses the provenance, exhibitions and bibliographies of each ring and, where possible, the catalogue also includes a census of each type of ring from examples in public and private collections. A technical section by the conservator Angélique Laurent-Di Mantova studies each ring, its material, fabrication and use.
Exhibition: Roman to Rennaissance: A Private Collection of Rings, 12 to 22 May 2009