The Dating Game: Medieval Times
Jewelry, accessories, and ... caskets? Buying a gift to impress the special lady in their life is not just for men of today; medieval men were just as hard pressed. Find out just how extravagant men of this era could be.
Leather Casket with Scenes of Courtly Love, c. 1350-1400. France, Gothic period. Leather: embossed, incised, iron mounts; wood core; 10.5 x 25.2 x 19 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
When you think of a casket, you don't usually think of it as a place to put sentiments of love. But during medieval times, small caskets such as the one above were used by the wealthy to store personal items and proudly displayed in their homes. This one is inscribed with an expression of love: “Hold my heart,” requests the lady. “But you already have it,” replies the man, who then appears on the front, stating: “Have it once more.” The perfect way for him to express his emotions in a lovely, yet practical gift.
Incredibly ornate, this belt is exactly the kind of gift I would want my courtly admirer to give me. Made up of colorful enamel plaques, with engraving into the silver beneath, it depicts scenes of courtly love, musicians, and animals. This belt (also known as a girdle) would have been at the top of every medieval woman’s wish list, making Sir Audric or any other medieval man the best boyfriend in his lady’s eyes.
Belt for a Lady’s Dress, c. 1375-1400. Italy, Siena(?). Basse-taille enamel and gilding on silver, silver thread, gilt-silver buckle, cast and chased; 236.5 x 2.9 x 0.6 cm. Gift of the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust 1930.742.
What better test of your medieval man’s taste but in his choice of jewelry? This silver ring features a sapphire in the middle, with symbols of the sun and the moon along with a depiction of clasped hands. The combination of these images points to the idea of a sentimental relationship between a man and a woman. I’d say that this would be the perfect way for a courtly gentleman to suggest the next step to his gentle-lady.
Ring,1300s. England. Gilded silver, sapphire; Diam. 2.9 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund.
Come woo the gentleman or gentle-lady in your life and view the gifts of boyfriends and girlfriends of eras past in CMA's collection of medieval art objects!
Comment below on your favorite piece of medieval art in our collection.
Tori Laser is a junior at John Carroll University studying art history with a focus on communications. She is interning this summer in the Communications and Marketing Department at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
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