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Home > Auctions > 25th February 2016 > Medieval Joan of Arc Devotional Ring with Casket and Documents

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LOT 1220

Sold for (Inc. bp): £297,600

Ring: 3/4" casket: 3 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 3" (Ring: 4.90 grams, 21mm overall, 18.27mm internal diameter (approximate size British Q, USA 8, Europe 17.49, Japan 17); casket: 127 grams total, 79 x 58 x 77mm).

With a published Joan of Arc association dating back over a century, exhibited twice in France in the 1950s and in the Museum of Lancashire Millennium Exhibition, January to December 2000, this ring has a silver-gilt hoop with facetted outer face, expanding shoulders and two rectangular and angled fields to the bezel; the hoop with incised niello-filled florid lozenges and triangles, the design giving the appearance of three crosses, the ends of the shoulders with blackletter 'I' and 'M' (for 'Iesus Maria'), the lateral faces with blackletter 'IHS' and 'MAR' (as abbreviations for Jesus and Maria); a small section inserted later to the hoop, sufficient possibly to enlarge it from a band suitable for a small, feminine finger to a larger male(?) hand; the degree of wear generally evident to the ring, including to the hoop insert, suggesting an extended period of wear, long after the date of making, perhaps indicative of the ring's appeal as a talisman; contained in an antique, small oak casket in the form of an architectural reliquary with pitched and hipped lid, the ridge surmounted by a plain cross in iron, the box red velvet-lined, with a removable rectangular holder (the compartment beneath possibly having once held a small document or label), arranged to display the bezel and purpose-made to hold the ring, indicating the reverence in which the ring was already held when the box was made for it; the ring is very unusual in that the vast majority of rings with angled rectangular bezels have them engraved with pictures of saints rather than being inscribed (generally termed as iconographic rings); inscriptions on such rings are normally on the hoop part.

Accompanied by a professional drawing showing the ring extended, with the three crosses forming part of the design to the shank clearly depicted; also with publications, documents, press cuttings and correspondence including a photocopy of the 1917 Oates privately printed catalogue; a cuttings book containing an extract from the Sotheby's sale of 1947 (including an image of the ring), with press cuttings from such publications as the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph and Le Figaro at the time of that sale, followed by others (some illustrated, showing both ring and casket) including from English, American and French newspapers and periodicals in the 1950s, from when the ring was exhibited in France (at La Turbie and also at Rouen and Paris); associated correspondence with the mayor of La Turbie and further referring to the 500th rehabilitation anniversary exhibition; typescript research notes and a signed note by Cyril Bunt (dated 1949) discussing Cardinal Beaufort and the ring and its descent to Lady Morrell; papers relating to two interviews with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1953 and 1956; correspondence with the French embassy in London, shipping documents and permissions for the ring to be sent to France for exhibition; a photocopy of the last letter (with transcript) of Joan of Arc; the exhibition pamphlet for La Turbie (4 copies, 3 in English, 1 in French, 1952), the catalogue for the Jeanne d'Arc et Son Temps exhibition (Rouen and Paris, 1956); documents, including the mounted display caption, from the AD 2000 - The Story of Christianity in Lancashire exhibition at the Museum of Lancashire held in 2000; other correspondence of various dates from 1950s to 1980s regarding the ring, most of the letters with envelopes.

Property of an Essex gentleman; inherited 1979 from Dr James Hasson of Harley Street, London; acquired Sotheby's sale, 1 April 1947, lot 37; formerly in a private collection (1929-1947); previously with the F. A. Harman Oates collection (sold Sotheby's, 20 February 1929, lot 21); earlier with Augustus John before 1914, the gift to him of Lady Ottoline Morrell; by descent, through the Cavendish-Bentinck family (Duke of Portland) from cardinal Henry Beaufort (1375-1447), who was present at the trial and execution of Joan of Arc in 1431; the ring stated by Joan at her trial to have been a gift from her parents. Supplied with a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate.

Oates, F. A. H., Catalogue of Finger Rings; Brought Together by F. A. Harman Oates, privately printed, London, 1917 (36 copies only printed, including this ring, p.5, pl.2 and referring to the belief in it having belonged to Jean of Arc; a photocopy of this Catalogue accompanying this lot); Sotheby's, sales catalogues, 20 February 1929 (lot 21) and 1 April 1947 (lot 37, ring illustrated; sale catalogue extracts of the lot description and illustration included within the cuttings book accompanying this lot); Hasson, Dr James, The Banquet of the Immortals, Poseidon Press, Edinburgh, 1948 (310 copies printed), pp.94-100 for a romanticised account of this ring and the death of Joan of Arc (extract from this work included); The Marvellous and Symbolic Story of the Ring of Jeanne d'Arc Exhibited at the Chapelle St-Jean of La Turbie, n.d (1952; English and French language versions accompanying this lot); Jeanne d'Arc et Son Temps, Paris, 1956, Commémoration du Vme Centaire de la Réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc, 1456-1956, Rouen and Paris, p.61, no.190 (original catalogue accompanying this lot). Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

See Dalton, O.M. The Franks Bequest Catalogue of Finger Rings, London, 1912, item 694 for a similar example of the type; see transcript of the Trial of Condemnation (in English translation, printout included) wherein several references are made to her two rings, including "[72] Asked if on the crowned heads there were not rings of gold or other substance, she answered: "I do not know." Asked if she herself did not have some rings, she replied to us, bishop: "You have one of mine; give it back to me." She said the Burgundians have another ring; and she asked us, if we had her ring, to show it to her. Asked who gave her the ring which the Burgundians had, she answered her father or her mother; and she thought the names Jhesus Maria were written thereon; she did not know who had them written; she did not think there was any stone in it; and she was given the ring at Domrémy. She said that her brother gave her the other ring which we had and she charged us to give it to the Church. She said she never cured any one with any of her rings" and "[130] ......Asked of what substance one of her rings was, on which the words Jhesus Maria were written, she answered that she did not properly know; and if it was of gold, it was not of fine gold; and she did not know whether it was of gold or brass; she thought there were three crosses, and to her knowledge no other signs save the words Jhesus Maria. Asked why she gladly looked at this ring when she was going to battle, she answered that it was out of pleasure, and in honour of her father and mother; and having her ring in her hand and on her finger she touched St. Catherine who appeared before her...."; see Quicherat, Jules, Procés de Condamnation et de Réhabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc, Paris, 1841-1849 (first publication of the full trial texts); see Barrett, P. W., Trial of Joan of Arc, New York, 1932 (first English translation of the trial texts).

During the period of history generally known as the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc (1412-1431), also known as Jeanne d'Arc or La Pucelle d'Orléans (The Maid of Orleans), from the village of Domrémy in the Duchy of Bar; from around the age of thirteen, she experienced visions of saints who, she said, told her to drive out the English and to take the Dauphin to Reims for coronation. At sixteen years old she predicted a French military defeat and convinced Robert de Baudricourt to allow her to travel, escorted and disguised as a man, to the French royal court of Charles VII at Chinon where she won consent to travel with the French army to relieve Orleans. The campaign was successful and she was involved in other military actions in the Loire valley and at Reims before being captured by the Burgundians at Margny after which she was effectively sold to the English, moved to Rouen and there tried for heresy with her wearing male clothing being a major point and her 'relapse' in this regard being the final straw in her indictment. Having being held guilty of this charge by an English dominated ecclesiastical court (Trial of Condemnation), she was burned at the stake 30 May 1431. Much about her and her trial (Trial of Condemnation) is controversial and another court (Trial of Rehabilitation) pronounced her innocent in 1456 since when she has become a French icon; she was beatified in 1909, canonised in 1920 and, in 1922, she was declared to be a Patroness of France; she is perhaps the most studied and written about woman of the medieval period; no doubt due in part to the great extent of contemporary documents and records that have survived.

Cardinal Henry Beaufort (1375-1447), a son of John of Gaunt and uncle to Henry VI, was present during the heresy trial and at the execution of Joan of Arc; he was the senior churchman present and conducted at least one interview in person with Joan.

Lady Ottoline Violet Anne Morrell (nee Cavendish-Bentinck, 1873-1938), wife of Philip Morrell MP, was an aristocrat (her title from when her half-brother succeeded to the Dukedom of Portland in 1879, on the death of their cousin), socialite, patroness of the arts and frequent hostess to the Bloomsbury Group; she was on intimate terms with Virginia Woolf and Augustus John in particular; her journals remain unpublished (many of her papers are preserved in the British Library, London, see Western Manuscripts, GB 58 Add MS 88886/4/1-41) and she was the inspiration for several literary characters of the period including Hermione Roddice (Women in Love), Lady Caroline Bury (It's a Battlefield) and, according to some writers, for Lady Chatterley (Lady Chatterley's Lover); two edited volumes of her memoirs were published after her death (Morell and Gathorne-Hardy, Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morell: A Study in Friendship 1873-1915 Faber, London, 1964-1974). See Darroch, Sandra J., The Life of Lady Ottoline Morrell, New York, 1975.

Augustus John (1878-1961) was a Welsh artist of note; he was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and reputedly a lover of Lady Morrell; he received the ring (as reported to Cyril Bunt in the 1950s and confirmed in Bunt's typescript) as a gift from Lady Ottoline and he himself wore it for 'some years'. See Holroyd, Michael, Augustus John: The New Biography, 1997.

Frederick Arthur Harman Oates, MVO (died 3 October 1928) was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (elected 1917); he was appointed Secretary to the London Museum (1914, London Gazette, 5 June 1914) and Keeper from 1919-1926, also appointed Keeper of the Kings Armouries in 1921 (Antiquaries Journal, 1, p.140), appointed Member of the Royal Victorian Order in 1922 (London Gazette, 31 December 1922). His collections were sold by Sotheby's in London, 20-22 February 1929. This ring is included in his privately printed Catalogue of Finger Rings, 1917 and described p.5 in the 'Iconographic Devotional Rings, 15th Century' section as: "Silver, once gilt, ridged bezel, early form, engraved IHS; and Maria; on the shoulders respectively an I and M; the shank decorated in low relief with lozenge-shaped ornamentation. Early 15th century, French. This ring is reputed to have been the property of Joan of Arc, and came through Cardinal Beaufort to Henry VII. It is curiously square in shape. From Augustus John's collection, 1914" and illustrated on plate 2 (third row, fourth from left).

Dr James Hasson (1892-1979) came to England from Alexandria in the 1920s, having qualified medically in Geneva, he set up in practice in Harley Street and was physician to Charles De Gaulle and the Free French Forces during WW2; he was a consultant to Christie's on Italian Renaissance art during the 1930s-1950s, a collector of fine art and curios, he was author of several books, including The Banquet of the Immortals, London, 1948 (310 copies printed).

Cyril George Edward Bunt (1882-1969) was an art historian and Librarian at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the writer of several books on such topics as the works of Sir Frank Brangwyn, David Cox and Leonard Campbell Taylor, together with a history of Windsor Castle; he researched the pedigree of the ring and its descent through the Beaufort and Cavendish families (typescript history, discussion and genealogical tree included); he corresponded with Augustus John regarding the ring and confirms how John received it.

It is worth noting that the Condemnation trial documents were not published (in France) before 1849 and that the first English translation was published in 1932; prior to these publications, the only access to the original documents would have been in the archives in Paris and, as the association between this ring and Joan of Arc is published at least as early as 1917 (the Oates Catalogue), the connection appears to have been made before any details of Joan's description of her rings would have been generally known. The Cyril Bunt typescript documents have only very recently been found.