Jewelry In Renaissance Art

2024 Words 9 Pages
This exhibition intends to reveal the contributions of jewelry to religious and superstitious aspects of Renaissance painting. There have been endless, often highly contentious, discussions of the meaning of these works, and yet their jewelry is rarely examined in depth, if at all. Adornment often signifies symbolic qualities which act as parallels of other symbols in a work, and, in some cases, reveal meanings not delineated elsewhere. This is most apparent in portraits, where jewelry is highly visible and detailed in its depiction, especially in the extreme precision of the Netherlandish tradition. It is most fruitful to focus on those works, though exceptions are readily apparent and, as such, a variety of paintings are to be featured here. …show more content…
It is noteworthy, however, that certain forms of jewelry have religious connotations in and of themselves. One example of this is the stirrup ring. Named for its distinctive shape, which resembles a horseback stirrup, this style was originally worn only by bishops. Although stirrup rings became more widely worn in the Middle Ages, they retained their historical context and a restrained simplicity in contrast to the elaborate settings in vogue by the high Renaissance. Consequently, the stirrup ring’s use in portraiture in this era reflects piety and modesty more so than wealth—if an artist wished to display wealth or status alone, newer, more elaborate styles would certainly be preferable. This creates some notable contrasts; consider an Adoration of the Magi from the workshop of Gerard David, c. 1520. Here, the eldest king wears a stirrup ring with a cabochon while the other kings present wear more modern rings with table-cut stones. This serves to differentiate the eldest magus at most pious of the three. Medieval jewelers used only cabochons, or polished stones, rather than cut ones, since gemstones were viewed as a creation of God which it would be a travesty to reshape. Stirrup rings harken back to this time, and their closed back and simplistic shape allow little light to pass through, rendering them a poor enclosure for cut stones, whose primary advantage, their sparkle, relies on the passage of light. As such, stirrup rings almost always contain polished cabochons. The presence of a cabochon imbues the stirrup ring with additional devotional value, indicating its wearer retains medieval modesty and pious respect for religious creation, again differing from the well-lit, sparkling, cut styles popular in the Renaissance. This can be seen in Andrea Solario’s Man with a Pink Carnation, whose subject wears a stirrup ring with a sapphire cabochon. Anyone wealthy enough to

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