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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    Europe

  • Date:

    5th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver set with a bloodstone (jasper) intaglio

  • Museum number:

    608-1871

  • Gallery location:

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

The strange serpent footed creature with the head of a fowl seen on the bezel of this ring is a representation of the figure of Anguipes, often associated with 'gnostic' faiths. The modern term 'Gnostic' refers to a loose group of religions originating in the Middle East around Alexandria towards the beginning of the Christian era. Gnosticism was based on the duality between the imperfect material world and the perfection and light of the true, spiritual world. Although there were parallels between Christianity and gnostic faiths and some Gnostics may have considered themselves Christian, tensions with the organised Church led to accusations of heresy.

The figure of Anguipes, sometimes accompanied by the inscription 'Abraxas' is often said to have been revered by Egyptian gnostic sects who saw him as the head of a group of 365 spiritual beings. The name is found engraved on gemstones and on the bezel of rings and has also been found in Egyptian and Greek magical texts. Wearing a ring with the Anguipes figure may therefore have had a magical and amuletic purpose as well as a spiritual one. Some commentators have suggested that Anguipes was in fact an Egyptian solar deity and that the connection with gnosticism is false.

This ring forms part of a collection of around 600 rings and engraved gems from the collection of Edmund Waterton (1830-87). Waterton was one of the foremost ring collectors of the nineteenth century and was the author of several articles on rings, a book on English devotion to the Virgin Mary and an unfinished catalogue of his collection (the manuscript is now the National Art Library). Waterton was noted for his extravagance and financial troubles caused him to place his collection in pawn with the London jeweller Robert Phillips. When he was unable to repay the loan, Phillips offered to sell the collection to the Museum and it was acquired in 1871. A small group of rings which Waterton had held back were acquired in 1899.

Physical description

Plain silver hoop, the oval bezel set with a bloodstone intaglio with a frontal view of a donkey-headed Anguipes in armour. Head to left, right hand holding a shield, with antilabe visible, left hand raised and holding a stick (?). 3rd or 4th century AD

Place of Origin

Europe

Date

5th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silver set with a bloodstone (jasper) intaglio

Dimensions

Height: 1.9 cm, Width: 2.5 cm, Depth: 1 cm

Object history note

Formerly in the Waterton Collection

Descriptive line

Silver ring, the oval bezel set with a bloodstone intaglio with a frontal view of a donkey-headed Anguipes in armour. Head to left, right hand holding a shield, with antilabe visible, left hand raised and holding a stick (?). 3rd or 4th century AD

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

Catalogued by the Campbell-Bonner magical gems database (classics.mfab.hu/talismans/cbd/2682 0), database ID CBd- 2682

Materials

Silver; Bloodstone

Techniques

Intaglio

Subjects depicted

Intaglios

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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