2008 | 21 | 103-114
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THE BYZANTINE MARRIAGE RINGS (IVth - VIIth C.). AN ICONOGRAPHICAL TYPOLOGY (Bizantynskie pierscienie malzenskie (IV-VII w.). Typologia ikonograficzna)

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The purpose of this article is to present iconographical typology of Byzantine marriage rings - sentimental jewellery commemorating nuptial ceremonies as well as objects provided with apotropaic peculiarities. The earliest type of Byzantine marriage ring, exemplified by a superb example in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, is that whereon husband and wife, in bust portraits, face one another in full profile. A type of ring characterized by a bezel in a form of inverted pyramid with a deeply cut retrograde device, with an edge inscribed with names of the ring's potential owners - Aristophanes and Ougilantia. Such a double-profile marriage ring, likely taken over by Byzantium from the Latin West, gradually emerges out of later Roman art and is progressively adapted to the needs of a Christian, east Mediterranean clientele. Cross as the most prominent Christian motif, has come to dominate fields of rings, bearing bezels in form of a thin disk with a superficially cut direct devices. Frequently, a bust portrait of Christ appears just above the cross. On later examples, Christ with a crossed nimbus acting the role of pronubis, embraces and blesses the bride and groom, joining their right hands in form of dextrarum junctio, deriving from the ancient secular tradition. Undoubtedly, it had been coinage of those days that provided models and inspiration for the iconography of Byzantine marriage rings. Superficially, the bezel of a Byzantine marriage ring of the seventh century - the time from which derives the major of exhibits - looks much like a Roman commemorative marriage coin. The traditional inscription, in the exergue of most of the rings, is the world homonoia (the state of marital concord available through the 'grace of God'). Furthermore, rings bearing the word hygia ('health') might reasonably be taken so inscribed for amuletic purposes, to protect the marriage union and ensure successful procreation. Also amuletic is the ring's very shape - the octagon, which is shared by more than a half of the Byzantine marriage rings. It looks that the clientele for Byzantine marriage rings was substantially confined to the topmost level of society..
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  • Marta Zdankowska, for postal address contact the journal editor
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