Every year in the kingdom of Denmark, a number of antique items from different periods, and in many varieties (we have more than ancient vikings items), are found around the country. They are considered Danefæ ‘Danish Trove’ and belong to the Danish state. It is illegal to sell any of the discovered items.
A special exhibition is opening at Kongernes Jelling January 27, 2019
This exhibition is a grand overview of the highlights of Danish amateur archaeology discoveries.
Among these pieces is a unique ring that was found deep in the soil in southern Denmark by amateur archaeologist Dennis Maigaard in August 2014. A year and a half later it was restored and exhibited at Nationalmuseet and displayed with other national treasures. It was a true joy to see this remnant of history in person.
I feel a close attachment to this part of history. I spent part of my childhood close to the estate Holckenhavn. Ellen Marsvin, the presumed owner of the found ring died in 1649. Back then the castle was called Ellensborg, named after the matron of the estate. The Barony Holck, which renamed it Holckenhavn, took over the estate in 1672.
The castle is a wonderful renaissance and baroque treasure. You can still walk the grounds and park. Incredibly, it is still privately owned by the same family that took over almost 350 years ago.
I first had the pleasure to discuss this ring in October 2014 with Mr. Goepfert, vice-president of Les Enluminures gallery, when the Benjamin Zucker Ring Collection “Cycle of Life” was on view.
(Ring with five point- and table-cut diamomds, rubies, black, green and blue enamel, gold. Italy, Venice, mid 16th century.)
This style of renaissance rings is remarkably similar to one of the marvelous pieces recently exhibited in the MET Museum gallery 464.
(Danish Renaissance Diamond Ring)
Renaissance Diamond Ring
Denmark (late 16th century / early 17h century)
Description : Set with seven diamonds, five are “pyramidal” point-cut (octahedron polished cut). The largest is centered with the four smaller diamonds surrounding the center stone. Decoratively adorned, with shoulders that end in elaborate scrolled engravings and traces of black enamel. The entire inside of the ring is also engraved and both sides of the shank have a table-cut diamond mounted and fashioned in yellow gold.
Provenance: Ellen Marsvin, danish noble lady (1572-1649)
There is no proof or written evidence that this ring was owned by Ellen Marsvin, but it is assumed due to her possession of the estate where it was discovered. The ring could also have been passed to her daughter Kirsten Munk, wife of King Christian IV (1577-1658)
Diamonds origin: not known, however, diamonds came mostly from the faraway Golconda mines in India at this era.
No matter the origins, it is a great example of a historic cluster ring and it is a significant and beautiful piece of Renaissance workmanship.
Since 2014, it has been owned by the Danish State and housed at the National Museum in Copenhagen
After 370 years in the soil it was still intact. Now that is a true Danefæ “Danish Trove”!
About the owner:
The grand lady Ellen Marsvin (1572 - 1649) was a special woman of her time. She was known for her fond admiration of “mormente mori” jewelry and relics.
She twice widowed. First by count Ludwig Munk and second by nobleman Knud Rod.
Her immense wealth was from the inheritance she received from her parents, Jørgen Marsvin and Karen Gyldenstierne, and her two husbands. Having the kings confidence, and being a trusted adviser, Ellen Marsvin was known to be one of the most powerful women in renaissance Scandinavia. Her crest contains both her parents coat of arms, symbolizing a Marsvin (a mini whale) and Gyldenstierne (a golden star).
(Ellen Marsvin family crest)
(Coat of Arms of the Marsvin Family)
(Coat of Arms of the Gyldenstierne Family)
Her portraits were hung at different castles around the country. She was with characteristically accessorized with rosary bead chains and “mormente mori” skulls in all of these painting.
Her only child, a daughter, countess Kirsten Munk was married “morganatically” to King Christian 4 of Denmark and Norway, famous for his many wars, great architecture, passion for astrology, and lust for women.
(Countess Kirsten Munk, daughter of Ellen Marsvin, wife of Christian IV.)
(Kirsten Munk with four of her children, girl in the middle is Leonora Christine)
(Christian IV. King og Denmark and Norway)
(Rosenborg Castle that is housing the Danish Crown Jewels)
A few of Ellen Marsvin many estates include: Boller castle, Ellensborg (now Holckenhavn castle), Kærstrup (now Valdemars castle), and Nørlund castle.
Ellen Marsvin was also the grandmother of countess Leonora Christine, who was archenemy of her brother King Frederik III’s wife Queen Sofie Amalie, and was imprisoned for treason in the Copenhagen castle for 20 years.
(Countess Leonora Christine Ulfeldt)
(Queen Sofie Amalie of Denmark and Norway)
It would be incredible to know where and who made the ring. However, we have no information of the creation, although the island Funen in Denmark did have great artisanal goldsmiths, like Dirich Fyring in Odense, who made the famous crown of King Christian IV.
(Christian IV. crown made 1595-196 by Dirich Fyring)
(Goldsmith workshop during the mid-seventeenth century, German)
Perhaps it was locally made.
(Illustration by Frederikke Udesen-Hansen)