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Collection

An antique finger ring by Wiese,

Paris, circa 1867.

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centred by a rectangular Byzantine garnet intaglio, depicting a hunter on horseback with a hawk on his arm, a fine impression of the scene is represented in gold on the reverse of the bezel, the intaglio is held by rub over settings in a yellow gold frame, with beading above and below, the tapering openwork band is formed from globular floral gold tendrils, which have been bloomed.

Signed Wièse.

Bezel measurement: 1.4 cm by 1.6 cm.

Internal width: 1.9 cm.

Weight: 21 grams.

Provenance

The firm of Wièse was established in 1845 by Jules Wièse (1818-1890), a German goldsmith who had moved from Berlin to Paris and had worked for jewellery firms J-V Morel and Froment-Meurice. It was first located at rue Jean-Pain- Mollet. Wièse sought the finest craftsmen to employ in his studio, such as Emile Philippe and Léopold Hubert, both of whom would become notable goldsmiths in their own right.

He trained his son Louis, who took over the running of the firm in 1880. He received many notable commissions, including one in 1855 from Napoleon III for a casket in which the famous talisman of Charlemagne was to be kept and placed in the Palace of Saint-Cloud. Wièse was also commissioned by his native city of Autun to fashion a golden presentation sword to be gifted to Marshal MacMahon in 1860. Wièse participated in the Paris Exposition of 1849 as a contributor to the presentation of Froment-Meurice, for which he won a medal. He exhibited under his own name in the exhibition of 1855, where he received a gold medal.

M Magne, wrote of his work in 1855 “the importance of his pieces and his brave experiments reveal, even in the most modest work, an awareness of art and beauty which deserves to be encouraged by the jury.” He also exhibited at the London Exhibition of 1862 where he won another gold medal, as well as the Paris World Exhibition of 1867, where he displayed a series of jewels in the archaeological taste. The firm was famous for creating jewels and objects in the archaeological, gothic and renaissance tastes, often in a buttery high carat gold. Often artificially bruised and slightly beaten to enhance their antique look, the surface of the metal was sometimes treated with mercury oxide to promote reddish coloured bloom, so that the jewel appeared to have been buried.

In late Byzantium falconry was a prestigious past time. The financial resources needed to keep birds of prey made hawking the preserve of the prosperous, essentially members of the court. The sport is referenced in accounts of Byzantine life and frequently represented in Byzantine art; it is shown in book illuminations, textiles, mosaics, ceramics, enamels and jewels.  In three enamel roundels held in the lower beveled frame of the  Pala d’Oro of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice, a Byzantine Emperor is depicted hunting with a falcon on horseback. The roundels were likely gifted by Alexios I Komnenos (1081–1118) to Doge Ordelafo Falier (1102–1118). Although they show an Imperial leisure activity, the representations of the Emperor hawking while mounted also convey a political message. One of the Emperor controlling the destructive forces of nature and dominating his enemies. This symbolism of falconry emerged in Byzantine literature in the 10th century, in the works of the Imperial Secretary, Theodore Daphnopates. From there it evolved to communicate Imperial Byzantine power.

Pala d’Oro of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice,