Ring thumbnail 1
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

Ring

1792 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.

This mourning ring was made to commemorate the death of a child, whose brief life is symbolised by the snapped rosebud on the left-hand side of the plant. According to the inscription, the child was called Butterfield Harrison and died on 14 March 1792 aged 2 years 9 months and 14 days. Although black is the colour most usually associated with mourning, white was used for children and sometimes for the unmarried. Butterfield was the second child of Caroline and Henry Harrison who both died within five years of his death. A memorial to the family was placed in their parish of Banstead, Surrey.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold and enamel
Brief Description
Gold, enamel and hair mourning ring for Butterfield Harrison, England, 1792.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 2cm
  • Bezel height: 3cm
Style
Credit line
Given by Dame Joan Evans
Object history
The Wellcome collection at the Science Museum has a similar mourning ring for Augusta Bruce which has the same motif of a snapped bud with the motto 'Nip'd in the bud' (object number A641560). A locket, M.123-1962 of around 1810 is also enamelled with a rose with a snapped stem and broken flower. The motto reads 'I snapped it, it fell to the ground' and 'La rose fletrie, le papillon s'envole'.



This ring was formerly part of the collection of Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977), art historian and collector. Early on she collected gems and jewels which resulted in the 1921 book, English Jewellery from the 5th Century BC to 1800. She published widely on jewellery, French medieval art and architecture. Evans was elected the first woman president of the Society of Antiquaries in 1959 (through 1964). She was a trustee of the British Museum (1963-67). In her personal life, she donated time and money to many charitable historic causes, nearly all of them anonymously. Her will left collections to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Birmingham City Art Gallery.



She gave her gem and jewellery collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum through a series of gifts, beginning in 1960. Her association with the museum went back to her childhood and she developed personal friendships with the museum curators and Directors. In 1975, two years before her death aged 84, Joan Evans made over her remaining jewels to the museum, choosing to remain anonymous during her lifetime. As she wrote jokingly to curator Charles Oman, her village was ‘divided into those who think it must have been me and those who say it cannot have been because I am so shabby.’

Subjects depicted
Summary
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.



This mourning ring was made to commemorate the death of a child, whose brief life is symbolised by the snapped rosebud on the left-hand side of the plant. According to the inscription, the child was called Butterfield Harrison and died on 14 March 1792 aged 2 years 9 months and 14 days. Although black is the colour most usually associated with mourning, white was used for children and sometimes for the unmarried. Butterfield was the second child of Caroline and Henry Harrison who both died within five years of his death. A memorial to the family was placed in their parish of Banstead, Surrey.
Bibliographic References
  • Church, Rachel, Rings, London, V&A Publishing/ Thames and Hudson, 2017, cat. 86, p. 74
  • Phillips, Clare, Jewels and Jewellery, London 2000 and revised 2008, p. 66
  • Church, Rachel, What’s in a name? Butterfield, Fountayne, Robinson and Boynton – using mourning rings to look at 18th-century naming practices, Jewellery History Today, Winter 2020, issue 40, pp. 3-5
Collection
Accession Number
M.162-1962

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record createdFebruary 11, 2003
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