- Place of origin:
Europe (western, made)
France (possibly, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Dame Joan Evans
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval and Renaissance, room 62, case 8
Posy rings, the name deriving from poesy ('poetry'), are rings with inscriptions that express affection, friendship and love. Rhyming or cryptic inscriptions were fashionable from around 1200-1500, and were written in Latin but more commonly in French, the language of courtly love. Both these languages were spoken and understood fairly widely by the elite in medieval Europe. The repetition of particular inscriptions suggest that goldsmiths had reference books of stock phrases; the more unusual inscriptions perhaps indicate a client's individual request.
The small size of this example suggests it was owned by a woman.
The circular hoop could be engraved both inside and out; until around 1350 the style of lettering took the form of the rounded capitals, known as Lombardic script, and from that date until after 1500 lettering was in the spiky script known as Gothic.
Gold posy ring, inscribed in Roman capitals in French, 'UNG TEMPS VIANDRA' separated by a flower and scrolling foliage in relief around the outer hoop and '+MON DESIR ME VAILLE' separated by stars engraved on the inner hoop. The outer hoop may originally have been enamelled.
Place of Origin
Europe (western, made)
France (possibly, made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
'VNG.TEMPS.VIANDRA' 'Un temps viendra' or 'a time will come'
'MON DESIR ME VAILLE' 'My longing keeps me awake'
Diameter: 1.9 cm outer hoop, Height: 0.3 cm
Object history note
Historical significance: Rings with amatory inscriptions can be found from the fourteenth century and would have served as love gifts, bethrothal and wedding rings. Documentary sources attest to their use in weddings, for example, in 1550 John Bowyer of Lincoln's Inn in London bought a ring for his bride inscribed DEUS NOS IUNXIT (God joins us together) along with their initials and date of marriage (Scarisbrick, Diana, Rings: symbols of wealth, power and affection, London, 1993, pp51-2). Rings with inscriptions were also given to friends or used to mark significant occasions.
The inscription engraved around the hoop is often known as a 'posy' or 'poesy' . In medieval examples the posy is mostly engraved around the outside of the hoop but later examples find it on the inner surface. Posies, also known as 'resons' or 'chansons' can be found on personal items such as gloves, handkerchiefs, knives or painted on trencher plates. They were chosen by the giver or could be taken from published compendiums or commonplace books such as the 1658 "The Mysteries of Love or the Arts of Wooing" or "Love's Garland or Posies for Rings, Hand-kerchers and Gloves and such pretty tokens that Lovers send their Loves" (1674). The ability to choose or write a posy became one of the literary exercices expected of an educated person. Friends and family would often help to find the right words. In a letter from Matthew to Edward Nicholas, May 17 1622, Matthew regrets his inability to find a posy for his brother Edward: 'That you may not suspect my desire to helpe you in your choice of a posie I will sende you such as have come into my minde by often meditating thereon, though I am pleased with none of them [...] I write not these because I have an opinion of them as that you should make your choyce out of them, only to give you assurance that I have not neglected your request, though unable to satisfy your desire' (Evans, Sir John, Posy Rings). Goldsmiths would also have kept rings in stock inscribed with a range of posies.
The French posy on this ring does not necessarily indicate that the ring was made there as French and Latin were international languages used across Western Europe.
The small size of this ring suggests that it may have belonged to a woman and the posy indicates a love gift.
Gold posy ring, inscribed on the outside of the hoop in French, 'UNG TEMPS VIANDRA' and on the inside '+MON DESIR ME VAILLE', possibly France, early 16th century
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Oman, C.C. British Rings. London, Batsford Press, 1974
Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982
Evans, Sir John Posy Rings, Longman's Magazine, Vol XX, No.115, May 1892
Evans, Dame Joan English posies and posy rings: a catalogue with an introduction by Joan Evans, Oxford University Press, London, 1931
Labels and date
Gold. Inscribed outside: VNG.TEMPS.VIANDRA (a time willcome); inside: MON.DESIR.ME.VAILLE (my longing keeps me awake).
FRENCH (?): early 16th century.
Western Europe, possibly made in France