Sacred and Profane Jewellery of the Italian Renaissance

The complex intersections between what can be considered “sacred” or “profane” in the Renaissance psyche have been and continue to be hotly debated throughout academia.  Accordingly, for the purposes of this short blog on Renaissance jewellery, simple working definitions have been chosen, ones that can be levelled at the images so that they can be sorted into two types: sacred (connected with God or a religious purpose) and profane (secular, not relating to religion). 

Images: Giovani Jacopo Caraglio, Cameo of Bona Sforza (1493-1557), c.1530-1540, Sardonyx, with inlaid gold and silver details; mounted in 19th century frame as a pendant in gold, with enamel, pearl and ruby, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Public Domain. 

Possibly Antonio Pollaiuolo, Hat Ornament Depicting Saint John the Baptist, c.1460-1480, partly enamelled gold set with diamonds and pearls, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Public Domain.

Wedding Ring, 17th Century, Venice, gold hoop and gold wire, British Museum, London. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Pendant (one of a pair), second half 15th century, probably northern Italian, silver, niello and gilt silver, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Public Domain.

Fede Ring, 15th century Italy, silver engraved, The Victorian and Albert Museum, London. Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017.

Jewelled Marten’s Head, 16th century Italian, gold with enamel, rubies garnets and pearls, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Wikimedia Commons. 

Pomander, 17th century Italian, silver, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Gift of Mrs. Arthur Curtis James, 1920. Public Domain. 

Ring, 15th century Italian, silver and engraved niello, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017.

Italian Gold Hat Jewel Showing the Judgement of Paris, 1525-1575, gold, peridot, sapphire, garnet and enamel,  British Museum, London. 

Girdle Belt, c.1450, woven in Venice, made in Lucca, tablet woven lampas with gilded and enamelled metal, nielloed silver and stamped brass, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2017. Copyright: © The Trustees of the British Museum 2019. 

Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.

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