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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1400-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.240-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf D, box 10

Silver or gold rings engraved with figures of saints have become known as 'iconographic' rings. They seem to have been a particularly British type and sometimes combine religious imagery with romantic posies. They feature the most venerated saints of the middle ages: Sts Christopher, Catherine, Margaret, Barbara, John the Baptist and George. The choice of saint was probably dictated by local loyalties, membership of confraternities devoted to a particular saint or the desire to invoke that saint's help with a particular matter. Saints in pre-Reformation British belief played an important role as helpers and intercessors - wearing a ring engraved with an image of a favoured saint was a way of maintaining a direct and personal relationship with them.

This ring is engraved with the figures of St Christopher and St Paul. St Christopher was the patron saint of travellers. It was also believed that looking upon an image of St Christopher would protect from sudden death for the rest of the day.

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 ring depicting St. Christopher and St. Paul, with the shoulders inscribed in black letter pre.../ cuore(?) with engraved sprigs

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1400-1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed pre.../ cuore(?)
the shoulders; in black letter

Dimensions

Height: 1.9 cm, Width: 1.9 cm, Depth: 0.6 cm

Object history note

ex Guilhou Collection

Descriptive line

Gold ring depicting St. Christopher and St. Paul, with the shoulders inscribed in black letter with an illegible inscription and with engraved sprigs, England, 1400-1500.

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Christianity; Floral sprays

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Christianity; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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