My latest summer reading is off to a great start! This week has been nothing but dreary, overcast days–perfect for an afternoon spent reading books. It only has taken me a few sittings to be nearly finished with this one, it is called: Towards an Art History of Medieval Rings: A Private Collection by Sandra Hindman. The book takes you through a collection of rare medieval rings–35 to be precise. Each ring has a description and several short paragraphs about it, how it relates to the time period, the symbolism/materials used/etc, and also sometimes gives a references to another ring(s) from other private collections that are similar and compares them. Also referenced are paintings from the time period that reveal clues to how a circa date was put onto the pieces or any other significant connections between the two. What one must understand is this time period has such a scarce amount of examples that are present today that each one is not only a rare piece of history but a primary clue into the time period.
The first examples of rings date back to the Byzantine Empire, with some examples of early Christian rings. An early Cristian marriage ring is a part of the collection, with an engraved portrait of a facing couple on the front of the ring. The example is roughly from the year 500. The next chapter depicts Early Medieval rings, with my favorite being the Viking braided ring, which dates back to the 9th century. The Gothic time period is illustrated next, with cusped rings first showing up during this time period–a derivative of the claw settings. The 13th-14th centuries producing some great fede rings, intaglios and my favorite from this particular collection–a gothic heart ring. There is also an example of a pendant from the 15th century that is inscribed “sadness is pleasure” on a heart shape, with tears engraved on the other side. That’s amazing! The last chapter focuses on Renaissance rings, again with an example of a cusped ring, a merchant signet ring and some enameled examples.
The book is organized really well for quick reference and easy reading. I think that is what I like most about it besides the wonderful photos. One ring alone can account for 4-6 pages, so you can cover several ring and several pages within an afternoon of reading. This one’s going into my bookshelf and I hope it will be in yours too! See below for an easy click away from owning your own copy!