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Signet ring

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    1300-1400 (made)
    200-300 CE (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold and red jasper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.275-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf C, box 19

This fine thirteenth century ring combines a engraved gold hoop with a re-used Roman intaglio of the third century AD. The design of two clasped hands was known in Latin as 'dextrarum iunctio' or 'joined right hands' but nineteenth century collectors called these rings 'fede rings', from the Italian 'mani in fede' or 'hands clasped in trust'. In Roman times, it was a sign of alliance or union and in medieval rings, the symbol is often associated with romantic inscriptions and found on love or marriage rings. Ancient carved gemstones were often re-used in the middle ages to show the erudition of the ring's owner. Roman stones might have been found in the ground as casual finds or preserved and traded through the Eastern Mediterranean and Italian cities.

This ring would have been used as a signet. Personal seals (secreta) provided an essential legal safeguard and were used to witness documents such as wills, deeds of gift, loans and commercial documents, personal letters and land indentures. The ring gains an additional signifcance through the phrases engraved around the bezel and hoop. Alongside the name of the owner, Thomas Roggerri of Suessa, there are religious inscriptions which may have been intended to have an amuletic effect. The phrase 'Et verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis' (And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, John, i, 14), according to a manuscript in the Chapter Library at Canterbury, could also be written on a scrap of parchment and worn as an amulet against paroxysms or fits.

This ring was formerly part of the collection of Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977), art historian and collector. Early on she collected gems and jewels which resulted in the 1921 book, English Jewellery from the 5th Century BC to 1800. She published widely on jewellery, French medieval art and architecture. Evans was elected the first woman president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1959 (through 1964). She was a trustee of the British Museum (1963-67). In her personal life, she donated time and money to many charitable historic causes, nearly all of them anonymously. Her will left collections to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Birmingham City Art Gallery.

She gave her gem and jewellery collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum through a series of gifts, beginning in 1960. Her association with the museum went back to her childhood and she developed personal friendships with the museum curators and Directors. In 1965, after looking through her jewels with curator Charles Oman and discussing the gift to the V&A, she wrote that: ‘I never expected to feel like a millionaire, but I did today and it was a real creative pleasure to see how my bits and pieces fitted into your great collection to make the best conspectus of jewels I have ever seen. I don’t exaggerate my part; at least I know enough for that. But it’s the fitting in that gave me such surprise and pleasure. I bought better than I knew.’

In 1975, two years before her death aged 84, Joan Evans made over her remaining jewels to the museum, choosing to remain anonymous during her lifetime. As she wrote jokingly to Charles Oman, her village was ‘divided into those who think it must have been me and those who say it cannot have been because I am so shabby.’

In her final years, offering her collection to the museum, she wrote movingly that ‘My jewels come to your Department with love and gratitude. It has been kind to me for 65 years.’

Physical description

Gold signet ring with an oval bezel set with a Roman jasper intaglio with a fede device and the initials CCPS/ IPD and inscribed in lombardic characters SIGILLU. THOMASII.DE. ROGERII S.DESUESSA The hoop inscribed + ET VERBU: CARO. FACTU: E:ET ABITANT:/ NOB/ and + XPS VINCIT X XPS X REGNAT X XPS: IMPERA.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

1300-1400 (made)
200-300 CE (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold and red jasper

Marks and inscriptions

CCPS/ IPD
initialled

SIGILLU. THOMASII.DE. ROGERII S.DESUESSA
'The seal of Thomas de Rogerii, priest of Suessa'
inscription in lombardic characters

+ ET VERBU: CARO. FACTU: E:ET ABITANT:/ NOB/
'and the word was made Flesh and he dwelt among us' John, 1, 14
inscription on the hoop

+ XPS VINCIT X XPS X REGNAT X XPS: IMPERA
'Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules'
inscription on the hoop

Dimensions

Height: 2.4 cm, Width: 2.6 cm, Depth: 1.9 cm

Object history note

Said to have been found in the church of Santa Maria in Comedia, Suessa Arunca (near Naples), in 1845. The ring was exhibited to the Archaeological Institute by Sir Frederick Madden at the meeting of 7 November 1851, whilst in the collection of George Borrett. It passed into the Guilhou Collection. Sold at the Guilhou Collection sale, Sotheby & Co. 1937, cat. 564. and acquired by Dame Joan Evans.

Historical context note

It has been suggested by C. Edwards in 'History and Poetry of the Finger ring' (New York, 1855) that the owner may have been a member of the Neapolitan family Roggieri.

Descriptive line

Gold signet ring with an oval bezel set with a Roman jasper intaglio with a fede device and the initials CCPS/ IPD, and inscribed in lombardic characters with religious passages and phrases, Italy, 14th century, the intaglio 3rd century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, cat. 28, p. 26
Ward, Anne; Cherry, John; Gere, Charlotte; Cartlidge, Barbara, The Ring, London, 1981, cat. 135, p.67
Taylor, Gerald and Scarisbrick, Diana Finger rings from ancient Egypt to the present day, Ashmolean Museum press, 1978, cat. 306, p.49
Edwards, Charles The History and Poetry of Finger-Rings, New York, 1855
Sotheby and Co, Catalogue of the superb collection of rings, including choice examples of all periods from the Egypt of the Pharaohs to the France of Napoleon I, formed by the late Monsieur E. Guilhou of Paris, November 1937, London, cat. 594
'Proceedings at the Meetings of the Archaeological Institute', Archaeological Journal 8 (1851): 418-20. Illustration (Engraving), opp. p. 419.
Madonna & Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy, edited by Maya Corry, Deborah Howard, Mary Laven, Philip Wilson Publishers, London/The Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, 2017, published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, 7 March - 4 June 2017, plate 110

Materials

Gold; Jasper

Techniques

Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Religion (concept); Intaglios

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Christianity; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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