Ring

ca. 1600 (made), 1st century (intaglio)
Ring thumbnail 1
Ring thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
The shoulders and sides of the bezel (head) of this ring are decorated with scrolls on a black enamel ground. The very fine sapphire intaglio (the design engraved into the stone) is Graeco-Roman, dating from the 1st century AD.

People

The intaglio was probably mounted into the ring in about 1590-1600. It then appears to have entered the collection of the Gonzaga dukes of Mantua. The ducal art collections became the target of dealers, including Daniel Nys, who in 1627 sold to Charles I paintings by, among others, Titian, Raphael, Correggio and Giulio Romano. In 1637, when Charles declined to buy from Nys the Gonzaga gems, Thomas, 14th Earl of Arundel agreed to purchase them through his agent William Petty. Arundel was the most dedicated English collector of his generation, who built a library of 3000 books, exchanged engraved gems with Rubens, and played a role in bringing Van Dyck to London, as well as making collections of antiquities, Renaissance drawings and paintings on the most extensive scale.

The range, antiquity and splendour of the objects Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646) acquired put him on a par with great European collectors. As well as paintings and drawings of the greatest importance, he collected works of the classical period. These included cameos and intaglios. His principal agent was the tireless William Petty (possibly born in 1585, died 1639), who in 1638 purchased for Arundel the gem collection of the Flemish dealer Daniel Nys in Italy.


The Arundel Collection gems passed by descent to Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758, himself a great collector of engraved gems.The Marlborough Collection was later sold at Christie's auction house on 28 June 1875.

Subjects Depicted
The sapphire is engraved with the head of Medusa. In Greek mythology she was one of three sisters, the Gorgons, whose terrifying appearance turned those who saw them into stone. She was beheaded by the legendary hero Perseus.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Ring
  • Cameo
Brief Description
Ring with classical gemstone
Dimensions
  • Estimated maximum diameter: 3cm
  • Estimated height: 1.2cm
  • Estimated width: 1cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • British Galleries: Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), who owned this ring, was one of the first Englishmen to collect classical sculpture and gems. He travelled widely in Europe and was famous as an antiquarian and art connoisseur. This sapphire is carved with the head of Medusa, the mythological monster whose gaze turned men to stone.(27/03/2003)
  • Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text: Ring with Medusa intaglio Intaglio 100 BC– AD 100; ring about 1600 The classical sapphire intaglio is engraved with the head of the gorgon Medusa. Set into a ring for the Gonzagas, dukes of Mantua in around 1600, it was later acquired by Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel. He was a pre-eminent collector of antiquities, Renaissance drawings and paintings. Europe Gold, enamel, sapphire intaglio Arundel and Marlborough Collections Salting Bequest V&A M.553-1910
Credit line
The Salting Bequest
Object history
Probably collection of the Gonzaga dukes of Mantua. Purchased by William Petty from Daniel Nys, for Thomas, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646). By descent to the widow of Henry Howard, brother of Henry, 6th Duke of Norfolk. Sold to Henry, Earl of Peterborough. Bequeathed by Lady Mary Mordaunt, his daughter, to her second husband, Sir John Germain. Given by his widow, Lady Elizabeth Germain, to Hon. Mary Beauclerk on the latter’s marriage to Lord Charles Spencer, from whom the collection passed to George, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817). Sold by John, 7th Duke of Marlborough to David Bromilow, 1875. Christie’s, 26-29 June 1899, lot 98 (Whelan; £105). Salting Collection.
Subject depicted
Summary
Object Type
The shoulders and sides of the bezel (head) of this ring are decorated with scrolls on a black enamel ground. The very fine sapphire intaglio (the design engraved into the stone) is Graeco-Roman, dating from the 1st century AD.

People


The intaglio was probably mounted into the ring in about 1590-1600. It then appears to have entered the collection of the Gonzaga dukes of Mantua. The ducal art collections became the target of dealers, including Daniel Nys, who in 1627 sold to Charles I paintings by, among others, Titian, Raphael, Correggio and Giulio Romano. In 1637, when Charles declined to buy from Nys the Gonzaga gems, Thomas, 14th Earl of Arundel agreed to purchase them through his agent William Petty. Arundel was the most dedicated English collector of his generation, who built a library of 3000 books, exchanged engraved gems with Rubens, and played a role in bringing Van Dyck to London, as well as making collections of antiquities, Renaissance drawings and paintings on the most extensive scale.



The range, antiquity and splendour of the objects Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646) acquired put him on a par with great European collectors. As well as paintings and drawings of the greatest importance, he collected works of the classical period. These included cameos and intaglios. His principal agent was the tireless William Petty (possibly born in 1585, died 1639), who in 1638 purchased for Arundel the gem collection of the Flemish dealer Daniel Nys in Italy.



The Arundel Collection gems passed by descent to Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758, himself a great collector of engraved gems.The Marlborough Collection was later sold at Christie's auction house on 28 June 1875.

Subjects Depicted
The sapphire is engraved with the head of Medusa. In Greek mythology she was one of three sisters, the Gorgons, whose terrifying appearance turned those who saw them into stone. She was beheaded by the legendary hero Perseus.
Bibliographic References
  • Oman, C.C., Catalogue of Rings (London, 1930), p.71 , no.306
  • Somers Cocks, Anna (ed.), Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630 (London, 1980), p.75, no.78
  • Boardman, John et al., The Marlborough Gems (Oxford, 2009), pp.1-12, 105 (no.181)
  • Scarisbrick, Diana, ‘The Gem Settings’, in Boardman, John et al.,The Marlborough Gems (Oxford, 2009), p.317
Collection
Accession Number
M.553-1910

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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