Delightful Met Show Explores the Meaning of Rings and Enduring Appeal of Jewels

Rings have historically symbolized love and power.

Gothic Love Ring “Corte Porta Amor” Date: 14th century.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A Goldsmith in his Shop Petrus Christus (Netherlandish, Baarle-Hertog (Baerle-Duc), active by 1444–died 1475/76 Bruges) Date: 1449. Photo:  courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Goldsmith in his Shop
Petrus Christus
(Netherlandish, Baarle-Hertog (Baerle-Duc), active by 1444–died 1475/76 Bruges)
Date: 1449.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A new exhibition at the Cloisters in Manhattan, “Treasures and Talismans: Rings From the Griffin Collection,” put together by C. Griffith Mann, curator of the Department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters, explores the subtle meanings behind beloved pieces of jewelry.

A number of ancient and medieval rings, on long-term loan to the museum, are shown in a wider historical and cultural context in the exhibition. Displayed alongside the jewels is a curated selection of paintings and sculptures borrowed from the museum’s Greek and Roman Art, European Paintings, and Robert Lehman Collection.

Gothic Love Ring “Corte Porta Amor” Date: 14th century. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gothic Love Ring “Corte Porta Amor”
Date: 14th century.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Color is an important factor in antique jewelry, in some cases more than a stone’s clarity. This can be seen in a 14th century Italian gothic love ring, “Corte Porta Amor,” in which a heart-shaped ruby is nestled into a gold ring which is inscribed with “The Heart Brings Love to You” in Latin.

Although by today’s standards the opaque stone may look a bit dull, the deep color nonetheless translates its messages of love to viewers across the centuries.

 

Two-Finger Ring Date: early 6th century. Photo: courtesy of Metropoltian Museum of Art.

Two-Finger Ring
Date: early 6th century.
Photo: courtesy of Metropoltian Museum of Art.

Covered Beaker Date: ca. 1470. Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Covered Beaker
Date: ca. 1470.
Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Double Gemstone Ring Date: ca. 300. Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Double Gemstone Ring
Date: ca. 300.
Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ring Brooch Date: 1250–1300. Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ring Brooch
Date: 1250–1300.
Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Covered Beaker Date: ca. 1325–50 (vessel); ca. 1340–60

Covered Beaker
Date: ca. 1325–50 (vessel); ca. 1340–60

Cusped Ring Date: 15th century. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Cusped Ring
Date: 15th century.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Inscribed Sapphire Ring Date: late 14th century. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Inscribed Sapphire Ring
Date: late 14th century.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Portrait of a Woman of the Slosgin Family of Cologne Barthel Bruyn the Younger (German, ca. 1530–before 1610) Date: 1557. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Portrait of a Woman of the Slosgin Family of Cologne
Barthel Bruyn the Younger
(German, ca. 1530–before 1610)
Date: 1557.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

2.4.20141023_Met Show TT 02924_171

Gemstone Ring. Date: 12th and 13th century.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Octahedral Diamond Ring Date: second half 3rd–early 4th century. Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Octahedral Diamond Ring
Date: second half 3rd–early 4th century.
Photo: courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Attributed to Hans Brosamer (German, active by 1536, probably died 1552). Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Attributed to Hans Brosamer
(German, active by 1536, probably died 1552).
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Double Gemstone Ring Date: ca. 300. Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Double Gemstone Ring
Date: ca. 300.
Photo: courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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