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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    mid 15th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gilt and engraved bronze set with a paste

  • Museum number:

    666-1871

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Very large gilt bronze or copper rings set with glass or crystal bezels are often known as Papal rings. They are decorated with the arms of Popes or Cardinals from the 15th century along with papal keys and tiaras and are usually distinguished by their great size and low intrinsic value. Their exact function is unknown but it has been suggested that they were worn as credentials by mounted couriers between Popes and other church figures and sovereigns. They served to prove the identity of the messager but were not of a value which would tempt thieves.

These rings were very popular with nineteenth century antiquarians and it is likely that out of the 100 plus surviving examples, some were made later to satisfy the demands of collectors.

Physical description

Gilt bronze Papal ring, the rectangular bezel set with a paste. The shoulders engraved with the crossed keys above the arms of Pope Pius II (1458-64) with PAPA PIO and the tiara and the symbols of the Four Evangelists are around the bezel

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

mid 15th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Gilt and engraved bronze set with a paste

Marks and inscriptions

inscribed PAPA PIO
'Pope Pius'

Engraved coat of arms
the arms of Pope Pius II (1458-64)

Dimensions

Height: 5.1 cm, Width: 3.8 cm, Depth: 3 cm

Object history note

ex Waterton Collection

Historical context note

These types of rings are distinguished by their massive size and low intrinsic worth. It is believed they were used as credentials by mounted couriers. The size of the rings made it possible for them to be worn over riding gloves and the low value helped preserve their wearers from attacks by robbers on the road

Descriptive line

Gilt bronze Papal ring, the rectangular bezel set with a paste. The shoulders engraved with the crossed keys above the arms of Pope Pius II (1458-64) with PAPA PIO and the tiara and the symbols of the Four Evangelists are around the bezel, Italy, mid 15th century

Subjects depicted

Coats of arms; Keys (hardware); Tiara (papal)

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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