- Material: Cornelian Shell, 15k gold tested.
- Size: 2 6/8" by 2 3/8" only cameo is 2 2/8" by 1 7/8".
- Date and origin: Circa 1850 Italy. Original fitted case.
- Conditions: Excellent. A few slightest natural shell lines not visible by naked eye, barely visible when cameo is backlit, there is small trace of soldering inside the back of the frame.
This is a Museum Quality cameo depicting a rarest subject, the so called Wedding of Cupid and Psyche. This the most famous subject ever depicted on a cameo because the first one was carved in the mid 1st - late 1st century B.C. during the late Republican or early Imperial Roman period. I have added the picture of the original first cameo, the engraving who made it very famous and the reproduction by Wedgwood. Look at how the figures are well carved and proportioned, the carver has respected the original cameo without adding or removing any detail. In so many years of trading in cameos I have seen this subject only a few times and only once I saw it finely carved. This time I have been able to own it finally. Look at how the veils on both heads of the female figures are carved, you can see their faces under the veils, this can make you understanding the skill of that carver as it gives you the impression that it is just a real veil. Every detail is masterly carved and the carving is three-dimensional. You can see how the carving is reliefed from the background looking at the wonderful pictures which, even if beautiful, don't give justice to this cameo. Another gorgeous and stunning subject in its original fitted case of Gass & Sons Goldsmiths, 166 Regent Street, London. A beautiful frame surrounds the cameo, gold scrolls and Fleur-de-Lys enhance the beauty of this rarest piece. All the history of this fantastic subject is show below and it is more than interesting.
A bit of History:
Known since the early 16th century when the cameo was drawn by Pirro Ligorio; by 1628 in the collection of Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens; by 1727 inventoried in the collection of the Duke of Arundel; in the 18th century: Duke of Marlborough Collection; in 1875 sold to D. Bromilow; by 1899: with Christie, Manson & Woods, 8 King Street, St. James's Square, London (auction of the Marlborough Collection, June 26, 1899, lot 160); 1899: with Edward Perry Warren; 1899: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 16,502.52 (this figure is the total price for MFA 99.101-99.119)
The "Marlborough gem" is a carved onyx cameo that depicts an initiation ceremony of Psyche and Eros. (Traditionally identified as a marriage ceremony: The renowned cameo representing the hymeneal procession of Eros and Psyche) The scene shows a veiled Cupid and Psyche, holding a bird and mourning while walking towards right; on the left, Hymen carrying a basket of fruits; on the right, two Cupids leading the way It is the most famous engraved gem in the extensive and prominent collection both inherited (through a marriage in 1762) and expanded by George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough. It is conserved in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it is called Cameo with the Wedding of Cupid and Psyche, or an initiation rite
, reflecting the view of its subject generally held until the last century.
In the carving, Cupid and Psyche are depicted as veiled putti accompanied by other infants, one of whom holds over their heads a winnowing-fan filled with pomegranates, emblems of bios
and fertility. Signed Tryphon
, it was probably made in the 1st century CE, though its date has been questioned and a case made for a 16th-century origin. The Gem was given by Peter Paul Rubens, who declared that he loved gems beyond all other relics of antiquity, to Thomas Howard, 21st Earl of Arundel, in the 17th century. Another famous gem from the Marlborough Collection that is also sometimes known just as the "Marlborough Gem" is a head of Antinous.
The artist's signature is minutely incised into the black background of the stone, just above the central figures in the frieze-like procession. Various 18th-century sources reported that Louis XIV of France had been prepared to offer the equivalent of £4000 in the previous century. An early 16th-century drawing of the subject by the architect and antiquarian Pirro Ligorio was seen among the papers of Rascas de Bagarris recorded by Jacob Spon. The gem was carefully drawn by Theodorus Netscher and engraved by Bernard Picart for Philipp von Stosch'sGemmae antiquae caelatae
(1724) which placed its magnified image in the hands of all Europe's antiquarians and rendered it part of the visual repertory of milordi
on the Grand Tour, who knew it from its illustration added to the 1728 French edition of the Jonathan Richardsons' (Senior and Junior) Account...
, published in French asTraité de la Peinture et de la Sculpture...
Amsterdam, 1728; in the 18th century the English could be counted on to pay top prices for outstanding carved hardstones of assured antiquity.
Once in the Marlborough collection, the gem was often redrawn: Giovanni Battista Cipriani painted a version of the gem, Francesco Bartolozzi engraved it, James Tassie cast it in opaque coloured glass paste, and for Josiah Wedgwood, first William Hackwood reproduced a low relief from Tassie's cast, and then John Flaxman modeled it at a larger scale; both versions were executed in Wedgwood & Bentley's white-on-blue jasperware that imitated cameos; the 'Marlborough Gem' first appeared in Wedgwood's 1779 catalogue. The Wedgwood plaque, available in several sizes, appears mounted on Parisian and London furniture, and a marble relief of the scene is set in the chimneypiece of the red drawing room at the original home of the Marlborough gems. It became so familiar that the caricaturist James Gillray engraved a parody of it in 1797, lampooning the long-delayed marriage of Lord Derby to the actress Elizabeth Farren, who is travestied as a tall, lanky veiled figure, who is offered a countess's coronet instead of the winnowing fan of pomegranates, with the plump cherubic Lord Derby at her side. By 1870 the Marlborough collection cataloguer observed, "the design has been reproduced in all sorts and materials of art, perhaps oftener than any other similar subject."
The 7th Duke of Marlborough sold the gem, catalogued as “The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche,” together with the other Marlborough Gems, at Christie Manson & Wood, London, in 1875. The collection, sold in a single lot that brought £35,000, went to David Bromilow of Bitteswell Hall, Leicestershire, who maintained the collection intact; when his daughter subsequently sold the Marlborough gem with the rest of the Bromilow Marlborough hardstones by Christie's, 26–29 July 1899, the cameo was sold for £2000. Now the collection is very widely dispersed, with large numbers in American museums. Pictures of impressions, electrotypes and many originals are now published on-line by the Beazley Archive.