- Material: Sardonyx Shell, 15k gold tested.
- Size: 2 1/2" by 2 1/8" only cameo is 1 7/8" by 1 1/2".
- Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
- Conditions: More than excellent. Some internal natural lines, not stress or crack, visible only when cameo is backlit.
Museum Quality cameo depicting probably St. Agnes with the lamb. The carving on this cameo is superb. 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. 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. Her facial expression is of ecstasy while she holds the little lamb, symbol of God and pureness. Her face is pretty and her hair wonderfully styled. Her clothes are in 1700’s style and her breast is just a bit shown. Her figure is finely carved as her clothes, look at the folds on her dress’ sleeves, they seem just real. A small touch of fashion is given by the two bows on her shoulders. The lamb is another work of art, perfect proportions compared to the lady who is holding it on her legs. Its fleece is masterfully carved and just gives the impression of a real fleece. Even the lamb expression is sweet and tender. This is another masterly carved rare cameo of a wonderful subject. Do not miss it.
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 Saint Agnes".