Ring with Holy Rider Iconography
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 no..more »
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. Sources Consulted 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).
Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020
Opening: 3/4 in. diameter (1.9 cm) Band: 1/8 in. wide (0.3 cm), 1/16 in. thick (0.2 cm) Bezel: 5/8 x 1/2 x 1/16 in. (1.6 x 1.3 x 0.2 cm) Weight: 0.2 oz. (4.4 g)