Ring Brooch thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery

Ring Brooch

1200-1300 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Gold brooches were primarily worn as symbols of wealth and status, although they were also used to fasten garments . By fastening a garment, a brooch symbolically protected the wearer from amatory advances. In this sense brooches could be worn as symbols of fidelity, virginity or chastity. The inscription upon this brooch Let it not be given up to him who requests it suggests that it was worn by a woman as a protective symbol against the advances of male suitors.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold
Brief Description
Ring brooch inscribed in Lombardic characters 'NON DETUR PETENTI' (let it not be given up to him who requests it). English, 13th century
Physical Description
Ring brooch, gold, inscribed on the obverse in Latin in Lombardic lettering 'NON DETUR PETENTI' (let it not be given up to him who requests it). The letters are reserved against a cut-away ground.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 2.3cm
  • Depth: 0.2cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Marks and Inscriptions
'NON DETVR PETENTI' (Latin, in Lombardic letters.)
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
Sumptuary Laws



From the 13th century jewellery was worn by all members of society as a symbol of wealth and status. In the 14th and 15th centuries however, sumptuary laws were introduced to regulate and reduce the amount and type of jewellery worn by the public. In France in 1285 laws sought to forbid townspeople and their ladies from wearing precious stones, belts of gold and gold coronets. In 1363, English law attempted to limit the wearing of gold and silver to richer noblemen. There is little evidence to suggest that these laws were heeded, although the survival of base metal jewellery suggests that the less wealthy tried to find alternatives to silver and gold to display their status.



This gold brooch was made in England in the 13th century before the introduction of sumptuary laws. It may therefore have been worn by any member of society wanting to promote their status and wealth.Gold jewellery was expensive, yet popular with all those who could afford it. It continued to be a strong symbol of status throughout the medieval period.



Historical significance: This brooch is a typical example of 13th century design. The inscription on this brooch shows that it was worn by a woman as a symbolic protection against admirers. It is a symbol of chaste living and perhaps served as a reminder to the wearer.
Historical context
Brooches were used to fasten garments, and when made of precious metal, were worn as symbols of status and social position. Ring brooches were the most common design in this period. They were often made of silver and gold and inscribed with mottoes. It is sometimes remains unclear how these items of jewellery were worn and they may sometimes have been sewn into place.



Brooches were given as tokens of love. However, brooch inscriptions show that they were also thought to have a protective significance. A brooch, by fastening a garment, symbolically protected the wearer from amatory and sexual advances. In this sense brooches could be worn as symbols of fidelity, virginity or chastity. A lady giving her brooch as a love token was thus a symbol of her letting down her defences and accepting the amorous and sexual petitions of an admirer.



Although some surviving brooches have traces of enamel , indicating that they were once brighter and more vibrant in colour than they are today, the small size of medieval brooches and their inscriptions suggests that they were worn as discreet and personal tokens. Whilst they were outward symbols of status and wealth, their inscriptions were significant only to the individual wearing them. The inscription on this brooch, meaning 'let it not be given up to him who requests it' is a personal message of chastity and fidelity.





Romance Tradition



Gift giving was a strong theme in medieval romance literature. Knights and ladies gave rings, brooches and belts as a means of communicating love and affection. Such presents were then worn by the receiver as symbols of love or loyalty. In the 12th century Marie de France explained the gift giving process in her lais Eliduc.



'If you love him...send him a girdle, a ribbon or a ring, for this will please him. If he receives it gladly... then you will be sure of his love.'

The Lais of Marie de France, Glynn S Burgess and Keith Busby (trans), London, Penguin Classics, 1986, p.115



The romance writers acknowledged the possibility of misreading the symbolism of rings and other tokens. A ring given as a symbol of love may be worn by the receiver as a symbol of loyalty. This ambiguity noted in the romances seems to reflect the many purposes for which rings and other such tokens were given and the varying reasons for which they were worn.
Summary
Gold brooches were primarily worn as symbols of wealth and status, although they were also used to fasten garments . By fastening a garment, a brooch symbolically protected the wearer from amatory advances. In this sense brooches could be worn as symbols of fidelity, virginity or chastity. The inscription upon this brooch Let it not be given up to him who requests it suggests that it was worn by a woman as a protective symbol against the advances of male suitors.
Bibliographic References
  • Lightbown, Ronald, Mediaeval European Jewellery, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1992, cat. 3, p. 491
  • Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500 ,London 1909, pp. 57-62, 92-4
  • Cherry, John, Medieval Decorative art , London 1991, pp. 67-69
Collection
Accession Number
M.43-1975

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdDecember 15, 1999
Record URL