Mourning Ring thumbnail 1
Mourning Ring thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Mourning Ring

1756 (dated)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This ring is set with rococo inspired scrolls, decorated with a gold inscription against a white enamel background, to memoralise Robinson Morley who died at the untimely age of 22. Robinson Morley was the elder son of Thomas Morley of Brayton, North Yorkshire and his wife Phoebe Cook. Thomas had successfully proved his claim to the Robinson lands of his benefactor Thomas Robinson through a court case and his son's unusual first name probably reflects this. Robinson Morley was admitted to St Catharine's College, Cambridge in May 1751 but died just a few years later in 1756. His family had a monument by the sculptors John Fisher the elder and younger put up in the parish church in Brayton.

From the early seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, testators left money in their wills to have rings with commemorative inscriptions made and distributed to their friends and families. Simple bands enamelled with the name and life dates of the deceased were frequently made, sometimes set with a gemstone or a bezel set with a rock crystal covering a symbol such as a coffin or initials in gold wire. In the later 18th century, rings followed neo-classical designs, their oval bezels often decorated with the same designs as funerary monuments such as urns, broken pillars and mourning figures. Hair from the deceased was incorporated into the designs or set in a compartment at the back of the ring to give each jewel a uniquely personal element. Black or white enamel were favoured though white enamel was often, though not universally used to commemorate children and unmarried adults.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Inscribed and enamelled gold
Brief Description
Enamelled gold mourning ring, the hoop of five scrolls, inscribed in reserve on white enamel ROBINSON MORLEY ARM; OB 28 SEP; 1756 AET 22., England, dated 1756
Physical Description
Enamelled gold mourning ring, the hoop of five scrolls, inscribed in reserve on white enamel ROBINSON MORLEY ARM; OB 28 SEP; 1756 AET 22.
Dimensions
  • Depth: 0.4cm
  • Diameter: 2.1cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'ROBINSON MORLEY ARM; OB 28 SEP; 1756 AET 22.' (Inscribed on the hoop.)
Credit line
Given by the Rev. R. Brooke
Object history
Part of the Brooke collection donated to the V&A in 1864. The Brooke collection includes objects relating to the Brooke family along with the Osbaldestons, who were closely related.



“The Reverend R. Brooke, Gateforth House, Selby, presented, in February 1864, a collection of articles of personal use of the 17th and 18th centuries, being the accumulated memorials of an English family for three or four generations; the most important are watches, rings, seals, lace and court dresses; the total number of objects is 396.” The gift also included 718 books for the new National Art Library. Brooke stipulated that the collection should be kept together and labelled as the ‘Brooke of Gateforth Gift’. (Eighteenth Report of the Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, London, 1865, pp.40-41).



The minutes also stipulate “That Mr and Mrs Brooke, and the future possessors of the ‘Gateforth Estate’, provided they bear the name and are of the present family of ‘Brooke’, to have the privilege secured to them (by memorandum recorded in the Books of the Museum, and by possession of a Free Pass Ticket) of entrance into the Museum and Library and the Horticultural Gardens attached, on the holding of any scientific or other meetings, and on all other public occasions.’
Subject depicted
Summary
This ring is set with rococo inspired scrolls, decorated with a gold inscription against a white enamel background, to memoralise Robinson Morley who died at the untimely age of 22. Robinson Morley was the elder son of Thomas Morley of Brayton, North Yorkshire and his wife Phoebe Cook. Thomas had successfully proved his claim to the Robinson lands of his benefactor Thomas Robinson through a court case and his son's unusual first name probably reflects this. Robinson Morley was admitted to St Catharine's College, Cambridge in May 1751 but died just a few years later in 1756. His family had a monument by the sculptors John Fisher the elder and younger put up in the parish church in Brayton.



From the early seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, testators left money in their wills to have rings with commemorative inscriptions made and distributed to their friends and families. Simple bands enamelled with the name and life dates of the deceased were frequently made, sometimes set with a gemstone or a bezel set with a rock crystal covering a symbol such as a coffin or initials in gold wire. In the later 18th century, rings followed neo-classical designs, their oval bezels often decorated with the same designs as funerary monuments such as urns, broken pillars and mourning figures. Hair from the deceased was incorporated into the designs or set in a compartment at the back of the ring to give each jewel a uniquely personal element. Black or white enamel were favoured though white enamel was often, though not universally used to commemorate children and unmarried adults.



Bibliographic Reference
Rachel Church, What’s in a name? Butterfield, Fountayne, Robinson and Boynton – using mourning rings to look at 18th-century naming practices, Jewellery History Today, Winter 2021, issue 40, pp. 3-5
Collection
Accession Number
660-1864

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record createdJuly 10, 2006
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