This beautiful token of affection from around the 16th to 17th Century features the French phrase . . PRENES . EN . GREI . inscribed to the interior of this D-shaped gold band.
The Anglo-Norman Dictionary describes the phrasal verb 'prendre en gre' as 'to accept as a favour'. the phrase is conventional, part of the idiom of amour courtois, and found inscribed on various types of love-gift, often continuing, 'ce petit don' (this little gift).
The uses of this phrase include a late 15th century boxwood comb in the British Museum, another formerly in the Londesborough Collection, a medieval ivory mirror case in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, an early 16th century enamelled plaque now in the Historisches Museum, Basel, a pair of salt-cellars enamel-painted by Pierre Reymond c.1550, and a 15th century brass knife-handle now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. A manuscript of The Erle of Tolous written in the 1520s [Oxford, Bodleian, MS Ashmole 45 Part 1, f.2r.] includes a full-page presentation frontispiece depicting a well-dressed young man near a speech scroll that bears the phrase as PRENES: ENGRE, as he proffers a book (the manuscript itself) to a young woman. The fashion for using the phrase in amatory inscriptions seems not to have survived the 16th century, making that century the best estimate for dating this ring.
In the medieval period many rings bore posy inscriptions in Latin or French, the languages frequently spoken by the affluent elites. Later, inscriptions in English became more usual, although the lack of standardisation in spelling might surprise the modern reader. The inscription is generally found on the interior of the ring, hidden to everyone except the wearer and most of the sentimental mottoes were taken from the popular literature of the time. In fact, love inscriptions often repeat each other, which suggests that goldsmiths used stock phrases. In the later 16th century, ‘posy’ specifically meant a short inscription. A posy is described in contemporary literature as a short ‘epigram’ of less than one verse. George Puttenham (1589) explained that these phrases were not only inscribed on finger rings, but also applied to arms and trenchers. The practice of giving rings engraved with mottoes at betrothals or weddings was common in England from the 16th century onwards, and continued until the late 18th century. Sources suggest that rings could be acquired ready- engraved, or alternatively engraved sometime after their initial production, by a hand other than the goldsmith’s. Joan Evans assumed that posy rings were principally used by/between lovers and distinguished four contexts for the giving of posy rings by one lover to another: betrothals, weddings, St Valentine’s Day and occasions of mourning. Samuel Pepys’ diary makes clear that posy rings might also mark the marriage of a family member, when bearers could even commission their own rings and chose their own mottoes from books. The rings could also function as tokens of friendship or loyalty.
Provenance: Acquired from an established BNTA and AIAA registered ancient art dealer. Formerly from the Albert Ward collection, Essex, UK; acquired on the UK antiques market between 1974-1985.
Important Notes: This item is excluded from our Free Resizing service. As an ancient artefact we will not alter it.