- Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18k gold tested.
- Size: just over 2 1/8" by just over 1 6/8". Only cameo is 1 6/8" by 1 3/8".
- Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
- Conditions: More than excellent, there is a light stress line who runs diagonally from circa 1.00 clock to the left foot of Cupid. I can feel it under my fingernail only at its end and only from the back, it does not go through the front. It can be seen only if the cameo is held to the light.
Museum Quality cameo signed by Saulini depicting Cupid and Psyche after a sculpture of John Gibson made in 1844 for the Queen Victoria now in the Royal Academy of Arts in London. This subject was made for the first time by Tommaso Saulini for the International Exhibition of 1862 in London and then replicated for the Duke of Northumberland. The cameo is signed on the back "Saulini n. 8 Roma". The pictures really do not give any justice to this cameo that is very hard to photograph. Look at the sculpture, which is shown below, and then look at the cameo, every details has been reproduced perfectly from the sculpture to the cameo. I have to say that the carver was a bit more audacious than the sculptor as he carved even the Cupid's genitals which, on the sculpture, are covered with a veil. In the Victorian era was considered scandalous to show any private part of the body even if on works of art such paintings and sculptures. So that carver really challenged the public morality carving this cameo in that way. This cameo is a real work of art and more is signed by one of carvers who has made the history of cameos art. Another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality cameo.
A bit of History:
This is the story of Cupid and Psyche, found in the novel, 'Metamorphoses' written by the 2nd century AD novelist and rhetorician, Apuleius. Once upon a time there was a king with three daughters. They were all beautiful, but by far the most beautiful was the youngest, Psyche. She was so beautiful that people began to neglect the worship of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus was very jealous, and asked her son Cupid (the boy with the arrows) to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. When he saw how beautiful she was, Cupid dropped the arrow meant for her and pricked himself, and fell in love with her. Despite her great beauty no-one wanted to marry Psyche. Her parents consulted an oracle, and were told that she was destined to marry a monster, and they were to take her to the top of a mountain and leave her there. The west wind took her and wafted her away to a palace, where she was waited on by invisible servants. When night came her new husband visited her, and told her that he would always visit her by night and she must never try to see him. Although her invisible husband was kind and gentle with her, and the invisible servants attended to her every desire, Psyche grew homesick. She persuaded her husband to allow her sisters to visit her. When they saw how she lived they became very jealous and talked Psyche into peeking at her husband, saying that he was a monster who was fattening her up to be eaten and that her only chance of safety was to kill him. Psyche took a lamp and a knife, but when she saw her beautiful husband, Cupid, she was so surprised she dripped some hot wax onto his shoulder, waking him. He took in the situation at a glance and immediately left Psyche and the magnificent palace she had been living in disappeared in a puff of smoke. Psyche roamed about looking for her husband, and eventually in desperation approached his mother, Venus. Still angry, the goddess set various tasks for Psyche, all of which she passed, with a bit of help from ants and river gods. At last Cupid found out what was going on, and he persuaded Jupiter to order Venus to stop her persecution of Psyche. Then they were married and lived happily ever after - and it really was ever after since Psyche was made a goddess.