- Material: Sardonyx shell, 18 k gold marked with the Eagle's head gold hallmark which was the French mark for the 18k gold.
- Size: 2 2/8" by 1 7/8" only cameo is 2 1/8" by 1 6/8".
- Date and Origin: Circa 1860 France. Cameo was once a bracelet clasp, the gold tab which was the closure, on the right side, can be still extracted and works perfectly.
- Conditions: Immaculate.
More than Museum Quality cameo depicting probably St. Agnes with the Lamb. St. Agnes was an enough popular subject on cameos in Victorian era but finding one so crisply and finely carved is not easy at all, this one is the second marvelous one which I was lucky to find. Since the Middle Ages, Saint Agnes has been represented with a lamb, both the symbol of her virginal innocence and a pun on her name. She is also represented as a young girl in robes, holding a palm branch in her hand with a lamb at her feet or in her arms. This is a cameo of surpassing beauty, it is really breathtaking. The carving is so fine and the subject shows so many details that I really don't know where to start to describe it. She is more than pretty and her face shows much serenity, she's a little smiling while she holds the little lamb,symbol of God and pureness. The details of her hair are magnificent, so curly and long and so finely made that you can really think that you can touch and caress it. The details of her dress are amazing, look at the right sleeve, the folds are so well made that you can imagine that it is real soft tissue, look at all the picture of this cameo, many more details details are visible when it is put to different light angles. Her lovely dress is gorgeous and wonderfully made, the two bows, a touch of fashion, which are on her shoulders are the prettiest ones. The lamb too is superbly carved, its fur seems just real, it looks like as it feels protected by the sweet embrace of St. Agnes. Also look at the hands of St. Agnes, at how the right one gently keeps the lamb's leg and like the left one softly caresses the lamb. There is not enough words to describe the beauty of this piece, absolutely to not to be missed as this is another masterly carved rare cameo of a wonderful subject, a more than desirable collectors piece.
A bit of history:
Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304) is a virgin–martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. She is the patron saint of chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins.
She is also known as Saint Agnes and Saint Ines. Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, as her name resembles the Latin word for "lamb", agnus
. The name "Agnes"
is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective "hagnē"
meaning "chaste, pure, sacred". According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304.
Agnes, whose name means “chaste” in Greek, was a beautiful young girl of wealthy family and therefore had many suitors of high rank. Details of her story are unreliable, but legend holds that the young men, slighted by Agnes' resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.
The Prefect Sempronius condemned her to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another the son of the prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths.
Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome. A few days after Agnes' death, her foster-sister, Saint Emerentiana, was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonized. The daughter of Constantine I, Saint Constance, was also said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes' tomb. Emerentiana and Constance appear in the scenes from the life of Agnes on the 14th-century Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum.
An early account of Agnes' death, stressing her steadfastness and virginity, but not the legendary features of the tradition, is given by Saint Ambrose. Agnes' bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of Sant’Agnese fuori le Mura in Rome, built over the catacomb that housed Agnes' tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona. Saint Agnes is the patron saint of young girls. Folk custom called for them to practise rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20–21 January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalised in John Keats's poem,"The eve of St. Agnes".