E. Guilhou’s Collection of Ancient Rings

E. Guilhou’s Collection of Ancient Rings

Perhaps the largest private collection of ancient, Byzantine, and medieval rings ever assembled belonged to Monsieur E. Guilhou of France, but its extent (over 1600 specimens) and contents only became widely known after his death. Little is known of the gentleman himself, but his family collection might once have been larger and more varied if it is the same Guilhou whose medieval and Renaissance objects were sold at the Hotel Drouot, Paris in 1905–1906.

Art historian and private collector Seymour de Ricci (1881–1942) struggled to classify Guilhou’s disorganized and mostly undocumented collection, but he was able to complete a catalog with black-and-white photographs in 1912. Ricci determined that some of the rings came from other famous collections like Spitzer’s and Baron Pichon’s, but other items are of uncertain provenance, perhaps originally from unpublished collections or from archaeological sites. An Eduoard Guilhou is known to have bought from Phillipe Delamain, who excavated a sixth-century cemetery at Herpes. The inscriptions on a few rings associate the objects with specific individuals of historic importance.

Sotheby’s auctioned the Guilhou collection in 1937. Dumbarton Oaks acquired two of the items then, at least three more during the 1940s (acc. nos. 37.26, 37.28, 45.2, 47.15, and 47.18). Among those held by Dumbarton Oaks is an early seventh-century ring possibly associated with Queen Gundoberga of the Lombards.

 
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