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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.239-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf D, box 4

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 favoured saints was a way of maintaining a direct and personal relationship with them.

This ring is engraved with the figure of St Christopher carrying the Christ child. St Christopher was believed to offer protection against the dangers of sudden death as well as safety to travellers. It was believed that viewing an image of St Christopher would provide protection against a sudden and unsanctified death. The particular power of St Christopher is shown in a wall painting from Woodeaton, Oxfordshire. The figure of the saint carrying the Christ child is shown with a painted scroll bearing the inscription in Norman French 'KI CEST IMAGE VERRA LE JUR DE MALE MORT NE MURRA' (whoever sees this image will not die an unsanctified death this day). Just as seeing the image of the saint was protective, wearing a ring with his figure on would offer a daily reassurance.

The inscription 'en neu an' suggests the the ring was given as a New Year's gift. New Year was a period of formalised gift giving which served to cement social relationships and jewellery and goldsmiths work often formed part of these exchanges. In 1429, Alice de Bryne, a gentlewoman, commissioned a gold badge worth 13s, two gold rings at 7s 6d and another for 5s probably for New Year gifts.

Physical description

Gold ring, depicting St. Christopher with a hexagonal hoop inscribed outside in black letter en/ (n.e.u.)e/a/ne(?)

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1400-1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed en/ (n.e.u.)e/a/ne(?)
'for the new year'
outside the hoop; in black letter

Dimensions

Height: 2 cm, Width: 2.1 cm, Depth: 0.6 cm

Object history note

ex Philip Nelson Collection

Descriptive line

Gold ring, depicting St. Christopher with a hexagonal hoop inscribed outside in French in black letter 'for the New Year'. England, 1400-1500.

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

Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982), 33/ A/ 10
Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition of English Medieval Art, 1930, cat. 879
Taylor, Gerald and Scarisbrick, Diana Finger rings from ancient Egypt to the present day, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum press, 1978, p.57, cat. 406
Oman, Charles, British Rings:800-1914, London, 1974, pl. 65C

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Christianity

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Christianity; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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