Diameter of opening: 1 in. (2.54 cm)
Width of band: 1/8 in. (0.32 cm)
Thickness of band: 1/16 in. (0.2 cm)
Bezel: 1/2 × 7/16 × 1/16 in. (1.25 × 1.11 × 0.15 cm)
Weight: 0.16 oz. (4.5 g)
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Purchased by David P. Harris from Richard Temple (Temple Gallery) in London on June 12, 1992. Sold at auction by L. Alexander Wolfe and Frank Sternberg (presumably purchased by Temple) in Zurich on November 20, 1989.
Some areas covered in patina; notably the outside of the band and the grooves in the design on the bezel. September 2022. - Abby Foster ('23)
L. Alexander Wolfe, and Frank Sternberg, Objects with Semitic Inscriptions 1100 B.C. – A.D. 700: Jewish, Early Christian, and Byzantine Antiquities, Auction XXIII, Monday 20 November 1989 at 9.30 a.m. (Waldkirch, Germany: Waldkircher Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989), pp. 92–93, no. 347, with figure. [Sold for 200 CHF]
Brad Hostetler, with Ani Parnagian, "From Private to Public: The Collection of David P. Harris," in Ethiopian Objects in the Blick-Harris Study Collection: Art, Context, and the Persistence of Form, eds. Brad Hostetler, and Lynn Jones, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 5–25. https://digital.kenyon.edu/perejournal/vol8/iss1/1/
This darkened bronze ring has a one-inch diameter opening, meaning that it can be worn on the middle or pointer fingers. A light green and teal patina covers much of the band and fills the engraved areas on the bezel. The band does not appear to be a true curve, but is instead made of smaller faceted segments; however, this appearance could also be a result of some of the corrosion.
The image on the bezel is of the Holy Rider, a haloed figure on a horse carrying a cross-topped spear. The horse and rider face to the right, and are not confronting any apparent foe. This image was popular in Early Christian art, especially art coming out of Egypt and the Near East. While the rider on this ring is not identified by any inscription, in some cases the Holy Rider was associated with Solomon, due to the ring that he was said to have been given by God to ward off evil spirits. However, the figure on this ring also bears a resemblance to depictions of other religious characters and echoes some pagan imagery, as well as depictions of secular figures like Alexander the Great. Items that depicted the Holy Rider were intended to protect the wearer from evil and grant them power, prosperity, and strength.
Maguire, Eunice Dauterman, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers. 1989. Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House. Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Vikan, Gary. 1984. “Art, Medicine, and Magic in Early Byzantium.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38: 65–86.
Abby Foster ('23) for ARHS 291 Museum Object (Fall 2022).
This bronze ring features an image of the Holy Rider engraved on the bezel. The Holy Rider imagery consists of a man carrying a cross-tipped spear and riding on a horse. The image of the rider does not have any distinct facial features or details that convey a specific identity of the figure. Bronze was known to be a cheaper material during the Byzantine period and, therefore, it is likely that this ring was constructed using a mold, which implies that it was mass-produced and an inexpensive piece of jewelry. The Holy Rider iconography was believed to have magical, apotropaic properties that would provide wealth, power, and prosperity for the wearer. The band of this ring shows signs of having an octagonal (8-sided) shape that has possibly smoothed over time. During the Byzantine period, octagonal designs were common on marriage rings because it was believed to instill fertility and health for the married couple. Therefore, this ring was likely used as a source of strength and protection against harm and evil. The cross-tipped spear in the image also serves as a symbol of the Christian faith. Furthermore, the image of the Holy Rider is inscribed in the bezel, suggesting that this ring could have been a signet ring, which were commonly used as markers of the wearer’s identity in Byzantine society. This possibility implies that this ring could have served as an important symbol of the wearer’s private and/or public identity, such as their belief system or professional position in society.
This ring is similar to one at the British Museum (no. AF.295). While it is harder to decipher, the bezel features the Holy Rider iconography, which suggests a similar function and purpose. The form of the British Museum ring is slightly different as the bezel is more elevated from the band and the color is lighter. Overall, both rings demonstrate that there were various types of Holy Rider rings that existed during the Byzantine period and served as sources of protection, prosperity, and power.
Helen C. Evans, and William D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261 (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).
Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Henry Maguire, and Maggie J. Duncan-Flowers, Art and Holy Powers in the Early Christian House (Urbana: Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1989).
Gary Vikan and John Nesbitt, Security in Byzantium: Locking, Sealing, and Weighing (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1980).
Jane Taylor ('23) for ARHS 110 Introduction to Western Art (Spring 2021).