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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1500-50 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gold, formerly enamelled

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dame Joan Evans

  • Museum number:

    M.243-1962

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 5, shelf D, box 25

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. Rings were worn as a sign of faith as well as a form of decoration. Rings decorated with figures of saints, religious phrases or other Christian imagery were worn both as a public affirmation of piety and because they were believed to offer protection against earthly and spiritual dangers. The hoop of this ring is set with the Instruments of the Passion, the objects used in Christ's crucifixion and show his wounded hands and feet.

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, formerly enamelled, the hoop decorated with oval reliefs depicting Christ as the Man of Sorrows and Instruments of the Passion

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1500-50 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gold, formerly enamelled

Dimensions

Depth: 1 cm, Diameter: 2.7 cm

Object history note

Acquired in Leicester by Sir Arthur Evans. A religious gold finger ring with five bezels engraved with symbols of the passion was found by a metal detectorist near Abridge, Essex in 2004 and declared Treasure. It was acquired by Epping Forest Museum (PAS database ESS-2979A8). Another ring of this type is an example in silver gilt, dated to the 15th century published in “Medieval Artefacts" by Nigel Mills, 1999; NM124 page 50.

Descriptive line

Gold ring, formerly enamelled, the hoop decorated with oval reliefs depicting Christ as the Man of Sorrows and Instruments of the Passion, England, 1500-50.

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Instruments of the Passion

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Christianity; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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