Signet Ring thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Signet Ring

1300-1400 (made), 3rd century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This fourteenth century ring combines a heraldic lion, probably used as a signet, with a Christian phrase. 'In manus tuas domine commendo spiritum meum' (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, Luke 23:46), the words spoken by Jesus before his death on the Cross, are engraved around the hoop. Religious phrases, sometimes combined with magical names and invocations, were written on parchment and worn as amulets or engraved on jewellery and worn close to the body. They were believed to protect the wearer against both physical and spiritual dangers.

Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. They were worn by both sexes, across all levels of society. Some portraits show wearers with multiple rings across all their fingers. Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. Signet rings such as this one were pressed into sealing wax to create a unique, legally recognised signature. 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.




Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Engraved gold ring with a nielloed inscription and set with an onyx intaglio.
Brief description
Nielloed gold signet ring with an octagonal bezel set with an onyx intaglio of a lion rampant with the initial 'P' behind. The hoop inscribed in lombardic characters +IN MANUS: TUAS: DOMINE: COMENDO: SPIRITUM: MEUM. ('Into your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit'). Italy, 1300-1400.
Physical description
Nielloed gold signet ring with an octagonal bezel set with an onyx intaglio of a lion rampant with the initial 'P' behind. The hoop inscribed in lombardic characters +IN MANUS: TUAS: DOMINE: COMENDO: SPIRITUM: MEUM.. The outer edges of the ring are decorated with a nielloed chevron pattern.
Dimensions
  • Height: 2.5cm
  • Width: 2.2cm
  • Depth: 1.3cm
Marks and inscriptions
'+IN MANUS: TUAS: DOMINE: COMENDO: SPIRITUM: MEUM.' (Inscription in lombardic characters around the hoop. Initial P behind the bezel.)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
Sidney Churchill Collection, acquired by Dame Joan Evans



Historical significance: 'In manus tuas domine commendo spiritum meum' was cited in a Roman Pontifical of the 13th century as a phrase to be used by a penitent as part of a rite of absolution. The phrase, an expression of surrender to the will of God, may have been paralleled in the feudal ceremony of commendation. (cf. Images and ideas in the Middle Ages:selected studies in history and art, vol 2, ed. Gerhart B. Ladner, 1893, p.225).
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
This fourteenth century ring combines a heraldic lion, probably used as a signet, with a Christian phrase. 'In manus tuas domine commendo spiritum meum' (Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, Luke 23:46), the words spoken by Jesus before his death on the Cross, are engraved around the hoop. Religious phrases, sometimes combined with magical names and invocations, were written on parchment and worn as amulets or engraved on jewellery and worn close to the body. They were believed to protect the wearer against both physical and spiritual dangers.



Rings are the most commonly surviving medieval jewels. They were worn by both sexes, across all levels of society. Some portraits show wearers with multiple rings across all their fingers. Although rings were worn for decoration, they also had important practical functions. Signet rings such as this one were pressed into sealing wax to create a unique, legally recognised signature. 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.





Bibliographic references
  • Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing, 2011, cat. 27
  • Ward, Anne; Cherry, John; Gere, Charlotte; Cartlidge, Barbara, The Ring, London, 1981, cat. 141
Collection
Accession number
M.190-1975

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

Record createdFebruary 15, 2006
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest