Material: Sardonyx Shell, 15k gold tested, enamel.
Size: over 2 1/2" by 2 1/8" only cameo is 2" by 1 5/8"
Date and Origin: 1865 England.
Conditions: Immaculate. A well done small and invisible soldering to the pin clasp on the back. Mentioning for accuracy the presence of three or four minuscule invisible holes, only visible with the help of a loupe, on the carving which are natural of the shell which took a bit of dust with time.
Highest Museum Quality cameo depicting a rarest subject seen once before now, Titania, the Queen of the fairies in Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream". This subject is outstandingly full of details more than finely carved. Cameo is signed by James Ronca, cameo cutter to Queen Victoria, even a date is shown on the back just close to the artist signature, it reads 1865. Titania is here depicted lying asleep in profile to right on a poppy plant, the stem bent under her weight, the flower above her head; her crown and sceptre lying on poppy leaf below, star at top centre, crescent moon at top right. The poppy protects her as an umbrella and her head softly rests on a poppy blossom which she uses like a pillow. The details are wonderfully carved as only a great artist, like James Ronca was, could do. Look please at the edges of the leaves, they are like an embroidery, amazing. Her lying body is pure poetry and shown in all her beauty, she wears a flowing robe which cover the rest of her body. This cameo is also very large and the mounting is another work of art, blue enamel flowers and white enamel scrolls decorate the heavy gold frame. This cameo was perhaps one of the eighteen exhibited by James Ronca at the Royal Academy, please read the page above written by Judy Rudoe, a curator of the British Museum, for the book of Maurizio Buora "Le Gemme Incise nel Settecento e Ottocento" (Engraved Gems from 1700's to 1800's), page 133, "none of those cameos has been traced", writes the author in the page 134, until today I can say because probably I found it.
This cameo is after a sculpture of Felix Martin Miller, Ronca’s friend, who introduced him to Queen Victoria court. Felix Miller was born in Verdun, (February 8, 1819) France. He was orphaned at an early age and brought up at the London Orphan School. Felix Martin studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1842 on the recommendation of Henry Weekes.
He was for many years a master of modelling at South Kensington (1859-1891). Miller modelled for both Copeland and Minton and also exhibited statues and busts at the Royal Academy. He was a close friend of John Henry Foley who was a great admirer of his work. Miller died (1908) in Tonbridge, Kent. Titania was exhibited at the The International Exhibition, London, 1862. The sculpture of Titania was reproduced on an engraving by J. H. Baker in 1856 after the bas relief by Miller, the engraving is now in the British Museum, London. The picture included in this page is from an illustration from 'The Art Journal' of 1856. All in this cameo is detailed and finely carved, a rarest cameo in wonderful conditions. Another rare cameo of highest quality to not to be missed.
A Bit of History:
Titania is a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the play, she is the queen of the fairies. Due to Shakespeare's influence, later fiction has often used the name "Titania" for fairy queen characters. In traditional folklore, the fairy queen has no name. Shakespeare took the name "Titania" from Ovid's Metamorphoses, where it is an appellation given to the daughters of Titans. Shakespeare's Titania is a very proud creature and as much of a force to contend with as her husband Oberon. She and Oberon are engaged in a marital quarrel over which of them should have the keeping of an Indian changeling boy. This quarrel is the en Bottom the weaver, has been given the head of a donkey by Puck, who feels it is better suited to his character. It has been argued that this incident is an inversion of the Circe story. In this case the tables are turned on the character, and rather than the sorceress turning her lovers into animals, she is made to love a donkey after Bottom has been transformed.