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Home > Auctions > 25th May 2021 > Byzantine Gold Ring with Jesus and Archangels

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LOT 0114

GBP (£) 15,000 - 20,000
EUR (€) 17,440 - 23,250
USD ($) 21,040 - 28,050

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£13,500 (EUR 15,694; USD 18,935) (+bp*)

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Byzantine Gold Ring with Jesus and Archangels

6th-7th century AD

A spectacular gold ring with highly decorated D-section hoop, a cross at the base of the hoop with volute scrolls on each side of the grooved median line, balustered shoulders with openwork palmettes, each with a raised cell set with a seed pearl; oval bezel set within an openwork frame comprising discoid lappets, engraved inscription facing the bezel reading 'BEAT' and 'CION' in Latin and Greek for Heavenly Jerusalem, the bezel with three figures dressed in classical style, comprising seated Jesus Christ holding a shafted and jewelled cross, archangel Gabriel on his left, holding a palm of victory, to his other side archangel Michael holding a shafted cross. 6.66 grams, 22.47mm overall, 18.68mm internal diameter (approximate size British O, USA 7, Europe 14.98, Japan 14) (1"). Very fine condition.

Property of a London gentleman; formerly in a 1980s London, UK, collection; accompanied from an archaeological report by Dr Raffaele D’Amato and an independent specialist report and valuation by graduate gemmologist and jewellery expert Anna Rogers, GIA GG, BA, Gem-A, ref. no. 174326/24/03/2021; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10629-174326.

See the Royal Ontario Museum, accession number 994.220.39, for a gold ring with an angel wearing a cross; cf. Spier, J., Byzantium and the West, jewelry in the First Millennium, London, Paris, Chicago and New York, 2012, fig.9.1, for the same style of ring with stone bezel; a 6th-7th century gold ring with Angels, Cross and God in the British Museum (accession no.AF.287) in Dalton, O.M., Catalogue of Early Christian Antiquities and Objects from the Christian East in the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities and Ethnography of the British Museum, London, 1901, no.189.

A large number of Christian Roman rings were not set with gems, but instead had bezels engraved with figural images or inscriptions. The overwhelming preference of the Eastern Romans for religious iconography created conspicuous examples of wonderful rings. Rings with angels holding a shafted cross are widely spread, especially in the 6th-7th centuries when the new Christian iconography reached its apex in replacing the old pagan one. The angel substituted the winged Victory on the Roman iconography and the commanders of the angels, the archangels, were depicted as the guardians of the holy sides of God, similar to the Imperial bodyguards who were the guardians of the holy sides (custodes Sacri Lateris) of the Roman Emperor (Vasilefs) in Constantinople. Rings were often inscribed with invocations to Christ or to the Mother of God, to divine protectors, for aid in peace and war, and against diseases. The inscription is unusual and it seems a later addiction on the lappets, considering the double use of Latin and Greek letters. The style of the incision is however undoubtedly 6th-7th century, as well as the cross engraved on the body of the ring, which recalls the cross of the Barberini Diptych carried by the angel over the figures of the triumphant Justinian on horseback and Belisarius.