Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Key Ring with Lovers

late 15th century
Copper alloy
Overall: 3 9/16 x 2 3/4 x 5/8 in. (9.1 x 7 x 1.6 cm)
Metalwork-Copper alloy
Credit Line:
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968
Accession Number:
Not on view
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, particularly in the North, it was common for mistresses of the house to carry the keys for their numerous chests, cupboards, and their doors on rings suspended from their belts or girdles by a chain or cord.

Sometimes the key ring was attached to one of several chains hanging from a large broochlike device fastened directly below the belt. This device was used not only to attach key rings and other items but also to pin up trailing skirts.

This key ring, though possibly carried separately, may once have been attached in the fashion described above. The small sculpture of the courting couple would have served at the finial or handle. Though key rings with non-figurative terminals exist from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, at least two other key rings with very similar figures have survived. This particular example is opened by detaching the screw that links the ring to the figures. It is possible that originally a small bolt or cap covered the exposed end of the screw.
Irwin Untermyer, New York (until 1968)
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages," March 28, 1975–June 15, 1975.

Katonah Museum of Art. "Love and Courtship in the Middle Ages," October 2, 2005–January 1, 2006.

Gómez-Moreno, Carmen. Medieval Art from Private Collections: A Special Exhibition at The Cloisters, October 30, 1968 through January 5, 1969. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1968. no. 119.

Husband, Timothy B., and Jane Hayward, ed. The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 14, p. 29.

Gómez-Moreno, Carmen, ed. Medieval Images: A Glimpse into the Symbolism and Reality of the Middle Ages. Katonah: Katonah Museum of Art, 1978. no. 18, pp. 8, 19.

Boardman, Phillip C., Marcia Cohn Growdon, and Francis X. Hartigan, ed. Culture of the Middle Ages: A Festival of the Medieval Arts. Treasures of the Middle Ages. Reno, Nevada: Sierra Nevada Museum of Art, 1978. no. 10.

Mende, Ursula. Die mittelalterlichen Bronzen im Germanischen Nationalmuseum: Bestandskatalog. Nuremberg: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 2013. p. 377.

Related Objects

Aquamanile in the Form of a Unicorn

Date: ca. 1425–50 Medium: Copper alloy Accession: 64.101.1493 On view in:Gallery 17

Plate with Wife Beating Husband

Date: ca. 1480 Medium: Copper alloy, wrought Accession: 64.101.1499 On view in:Gallery 307

Plate with Five Angels

Date: ca. 1475–1500 Medium: Copper alloy Accession: 64.101.1504 On view in:Gallery 16


Date: ca. 1475–1500 Medium: Copper alloy Accession: 64.101.1517 On view in:Gallery 16


Date: 15th century Medium: Copper alloy Accession: 12.166.1 On view in:Gallery 307