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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    775-850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver and silver gilt, engraved

  • Museum number:

    628-1871

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 13

The inlaid gold and filigree jewellery of the seventh century was largely replaced in the early eighth century by silver work as a consequence of the increasing scarcity of gold. The focus on silver gave rise to new decorative schemes: the material lent itself to different techniques such as repoussé, chip carving and the openwork seen on the present ring. The growth in popularity of these decorative techniques was accompanied by a distinctive development of zoomorphic style, characterised by lively beasts, interlaced meshes and speckled surfaces, all of which are present in the central roundel of this ring.

Physical description

Silver gilt ring. The oval bezel has a central roundel engraved with a speckled blunt-faced quadruped, whose tongue and tail interlace around its body. Framing the roundel at either side are four fan-shaped fields, each with a sharp-nosed, long-eared beast-head.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

775-850 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver and silver gilt, engraved

Dimensions

Height: 2.1 cm, Width: 2.1 cm, Depth: 3.1 cm

Object history note

Found in the Thames at Chelsea in 1856. ex Waterton Collection. Referred to as "The Chelsea Ring" by R. Jessup.

Historical significance: Examples of high quality silver jewellery of the period from which the present ring dates are relatively rare. The abandonment of the pagan burial practice of interring grave goods with the deceased has led to the survival of fewer pieces. The majority of those that have been found were preserved as a result of their casual loss and the provenance of this ring, found in the Thames, suggests that it too is an example of accidental misplacement.

Historical context note

The filigree adorned and inlaid gold jewellery of the seventh century was largely replaced in the early eighth by silver work; a consequence of the increasing scarcity of gold. The focus on silver gave rise to new decorative schemes: the material leant itself to different techniques such as repoussé, chip carving and the openwork seen on the present ring. The growth in popularity of these decorative techniques was accompanied by a distinctive development of zoomorphic style, characterised by lively beasts, interlace meshes and speckled surfaces, all of which are present in the central roundel. The blunt-muzzled head of the central animal is widely matched in eighth century art - on, for example, a gilded shrine mount from Whitby and the Fetter Lane snakes, while the sharper profile of the flanking heads has a long pedigree going back to the dogs of the Lindisfarne Gospels and their descendants.

The frisky beast meshed in a thicket of interlace is cited by Leslie Webster as prefigurment of the Trewhiddle style which became dominant in the ninth century. The Trewhiddle style usually executed in silver on a niello ground is characterised by small exuberant animals, interlace and geometric designs held in small self contained fields.

Descriptive line

Silver gilt ring, the oval bezel with a dragon medallion flanked by four monster heads, Anglo Saxon, ca. 775-850

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

Webster & Backhouse The Making Of England :Anglo-Saxon Art And Culture London, British Museum Press, 1991, p. 222 cat no. 175
Oman C.C. Catalogue of Rings (Victoria and Albert Museum , 1930) p.62-63 cat no. 225
Wilson, D.M Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700-1100 in the British Museum (London, 1964) cat.105
Brondsted. J Early English Ornament (London/Copenhagen, 1924) p. 155
Jessup. R Anglo-Saxon Jewellery (Shire Publications, 1974) pp. 81-83

Materials

Silver; Gold

Techniques

Engraving (incising); Gilding

Subjects depicted

Dragons; Monsters

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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