LES ENLUMINURES gallery has announced that it will stage a Special Exhibition at TEFAF in Maastricht March 16 – 25, of historically interesting Finger Rings, titled “RINGS THROUGH THE AGES.”
Galerie Les Enluminures founder, Dr. Sandra Hindman, says she is delighted to have such a wide range of interesting and historical rings to show, with 15 examples on view. They range from a braided Viking Ring dating to the 9-11th century, to a Devotional Iconographic Ring of the Virgin and Child from late 14th century England, to a Renaissance Memento Mori Ring from the 16th century and a Baroque Gemstone Ring from Bohemia.
Les Enluminures has for twenty years been known primarily for its museum quality Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts, Miniatures and Art . But Hindman, a Ph.D. in art history who twice headed the department at Northwestern University, has always been fascinated with Finger Rings, and maintains a separate Les Enluminures web site at www.medieval-rings.com devoted to the subject.
She says, “The history of rings in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is extraordinarily rich. People at all levels of society wore rings and for different reasons. It was common to wear more than one ring at a time on any finger of the hand, on the upper joints of fingers, and sometimes over gloves. This selection includes rings of different types, organized chronologically. Rings were exchanged by lovers or for engagements or weddings. They were used as expressions of religious beliefs or in acts of popular devotion. They made statements about social status, secured family ties, or served as legal authentication during an era of anonymity. Some rings were quite simply just worn as fashion accessories to show off the virtuoso techniques of the goldsmith or the quality of the stone. Rings could witness cycles of life from birth to death. Every ring tells a story of the past, its allure continuing intact.”
Hindman calls the braided Viking Ring “a Ring for War” citing the epic poem Beowulf using the terms “ring-giver,” “ring-hoarder,” and “ring-flinger.” She says the English 17th century “Posy” ring engraved with the words “The God of Peace Our Love Increase” is a “Ring for love,” while the Baroque Gemstone Ring made in the second half of the 17th century, probably in Bohemia, is a “Ring to Kiss.”
Hindman says the Gold and Garnet Ottonian Gemstone Ring is a “Ring to show off.” It
dates to the 11th century German Empire. “This ring demonstrates the skill of the goldsmith with a highly elaborate bezel and contrasting texture of applied ornaments, rows of gold pellets and twisted wires. Similar rings have been found in women’s graves in Germany and it relates to an Imperial ring found in the Treasury of Queen Agnes in Mainz.”
Another featured ring is a Renaissance Memento Mori Ring made in 16th century England in gold with black and white enamel.
According to Hindman, “This is an elaborate example of a Memento Mori ring worn as an everyday reminder of the brevity and vanity of life and of the need to be prepared for death. The skull, which lacks its white enamel, is surrounded by the inscription “Remember Death,” while the edges of the bezel are enameled in Latin, “Nocete Ipsum” or “Know Yourself.”
The world’s premier antiques and art show, The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) attracts over 250 of the most esteemed dealers from more than 17 countries and is vetted by no less than 29 different committees comprised of 175 world experts. Each year Maastricht attracts the world’s leading museums, collectors and connoisseurs of art.
Hindman is showing important examples of works from her other specialties at TEFAF, too, among them, the “Triumph of David,” by the Berlin Master of Mary of Burgundy, and a rare and important work Book of Hours (use of Paris) dating from 1410 from the Workshop of the Luçon Master (Paris active c1405-1415), complete and bound in old red velvet
Les Enluminures is expanding and adding a New York gallery at 23 East 73 Street in May, 2012. Its Paris gallery is opposite the Louvre at Le Louvre des Antiquaires. Hindman has written 10 books and publishes comprehensive catalogues on the four specialties of her business, which include Medieval and Renaissance Illuminations, Manuscripts, Finger Rings and Stained Glass.
Les Enluminures clients range from major museums, libraries and universities to important private collectors. The gallery is a featured exhibitor at the world’s most prestigious antiques and art fairs in New York, Paris, Maastricht, London, San Francisco and Florence. It has pioneered the use of 21st century technology for this genre, incorporating video ‘tours,’ and a ‘turn the page’ feature for viewing manuscripts on its web site and embracing social media platforms.
Highlights of RINGS THROUGH THE AGES…..at Les Enluminures
A ring for war
VIKING BRAIDED RING
Scandinavia or England, 9-11th century
Circumference 61.6 mm.; weight 11.1 gr.; US size 10; UK size T ½
This braided ring is large in size and was probably worn by a man, a Viking soldier. In the epic poem Beowulf, the terms “ring-giver,” “ring-hoarder,” and “ring-flinger” are all used; probably such rings were given to soldiers who went into battle and, in at least one instance, there is literary evidence of rings being used to ward off invasion and as ransom.
A ring to show off
OTTONIAN GEMSTONE RING
German Empire, 11th century
Gold and garnet
Circumference 54.4 mm.; weight 5.3 gr.; US size 7; UK size N 1/2
The skill of the goldsmith is evident in this fine ring, which shows a highly elaborate bezel with contrasting texture of applied ornaments, rows of gold pellets and twisted wires. Similar to rings found in women’s graves in Germany, it also relates to an imperial ring found in the Treasury of Queen Agnes in Mainz.
A ring for prayer
DEVOTIONAL ICONOGRAPHIC RING of the Virgin and Child
England, late 14th century
Gold, engraved bezel, black letter inscription
Circumference 59; weight, 7.8 gr.; US size 8 ¾; UK size R
Iconographic rings, displaying one or more Christian figures engraved on the bezel, are found primarily in England from c. 1400 to the Reformation. The image of the Virgin and Child was among the most common subjects. On the interior of the band is engraved the phrase “Ave Maria” which opens the prayer Hail Mary.
A ring to sign with
RENAISSANCE MERCHANT’S RING
England, 15th century
Diameter hoop, 21.5 mm.; weight 13.68 gr.; US size 12; UK size Y
The merchant’s mark is the forerunner of the modern trademark; it served utilitarian purposes in the age of the trade fostered by the Hanseatic League. They were often prominently worn on the forefinger of the left hand, used to sign correspondence and had the status of an armorial bearing.
A ring for life and death
Renaissance Memento Mori Ring
England, 16th century
gold with black and white enamel
Bezel 15 x 12 x 2 mm.; circumference 51 mm.; weight 9.3 gr. US size 5 ¾; UK size L
The skull (lacking its white enamel) is surrounded by the inscription “REMEMBER DEATH,” while the edges of the bezel are enameled in Latin “NOCETE IPSUM” (Know Yourself). This is an elaborate example of a Memento Mori ring worn as an everyday reminder of the brevity and vanity of life and of the need to be prepared for death.
A ring for love
POSY RING “THE GOD OF PEACE OUR LOVE INCREASE”
England, 17th century
Circumference 59/60; weight 8 gr.; US size 9; UK size R ½
Posy rings were exchanged by friends and lovers and sealed engagements and marriages. Taking their name from short poems that were literary exercises in Elizabethan England and much cited by Shakespeare, posies were commonplace sentiments often inscribed in rings.
A ring to kiss
Baroque Gemstone Ring
Bohemia (?), second half of 17th century
Gold, rubies and a single garnet, enamel
Circumference 57 mm.; weight 4.6 gr.; US size 8; UK size P ½
The delicately enameled image of the Virgin and Child on the central stone transforms a pretty ruby cluster ring into an object of devotion. Recalling imagery of liturgical vessels displaying the Eucharist at the center, this ring “monstrance” has been repeatedly kissed by the wearer as a devotional gesture.
Galerie LES ENLUMINURES
at TEFAF MAASTRICHT Stand #274
March 16 - 25
daily 11-7 Sunday 11-6
Preview March 15, 2012
and at Le Louvre des Antiquaires,
2 Place du Palais-Royal,
75001 Paris (France)