The Hours leading the Horses of the Sun
 
 
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18k gold tested
  • Size: 3 2/8" by 2 7/8" only cameo is 2 18/32" by 2 5/32"
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy, frame could be English.
  • Conditions: A couple of slight natural lines in the shell only visible when cameo is backlit, not visible from the front by naked eye, the line on the top can be very slightly felt under the fingernail only close to the cameo frame on the back, it does not go through the shell.    
Highest Museum quality cameo depicting The Hours leading the Horses of the Sun after a sculpture by John Gibson made in 1850 now in the Royal Academy in London.  Lovely, rarest and unusual subject matter for a cameo. So large cameos are not easy to find, especially museum quality ones and in such fantastic condition. The carver reproduced exactly the work of Gibson, there is not details lost, even the ankle bracelets worn by the Hours were carved just like they were made on that bas relief. Surely an art work from a master carver, I'm amazed that it is not signed, it could well come from the Saulini Studio as I can recognize the style of the carving. It is known that many of the cameos from their Studio were not signed at all. This is the first time that I find such a subject and so masterly carved.  The shell is perfectly curve and gives movement to the whole scene.This imposing scene just required a large shell, in fact it is very well evidenced being carved just in the center of the shell and having the nude shell left on the top and at the bottom of the scene. If the shell had been smaller, the whole scene would have lost its charm. This cameo is outstanding, the carving is more than superb, all the details are perfectly reproduced from the original artwork, look at the ankle bracelets worn by the Hours in the original work, you'll see them even carved on the cameo. Everything is just like it is in the bas-relief. Really amazing. Perfect proportions and perfect cut carving complete the beauty of this piece which is also enhanced by a stunning frame which shows four knots at the four cardinal points and is totally chiselled. A cameo which can't be missed.

History

The HORAE, who are worshipped as Hours as well as Seasons, are the wardens of the sky and of Olympus. Their task is to open and close the Gates of Heaven, whether to open the thick cloud in the entrance, or shut it. They also yoke and unyoke the horses of the chariots of the gods, and they feed the horses with ambrosia. Some have described them as the handmaids of Helios. The HORAE were given the ordering and adornment of life. When the gods fashioned Pandora , and each of them bestowed her with a gift, the HORAE crowned her head with spring flowers. It is said that when Aphrodite was born, the HORAE welcomed her joyously, clothing her with heavenly garments. They put on her head a crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of orichalc and gold. Then they adorned her with golden necklaces, and the kind of jewels which the HORAE wear themselves whenever they join the dances of the gods.

THE TWELVE HORAI (or Horae) were goddesses of the hours of the day and perhaps also of the twelve months of the year. They oversaw the path of the sun-god Helios as he travelled across the sky, dividing the day into its portions. The ancient Greeks did not have hours of fixed length like we do today. Instead they divided the hours of daylight into twelve portions, identified by the position of the sun in the sky. Thus the length of the hour varied between the longer days of summer and shorter ones of winter. The twelve Horai were not always clearly distinguishable from the Horai of the seasons, who were also described as overseeing the path of the sun.

Auge

Anatole or Antolia is the dawn , a maid of Harmonia attending the East Wind's gate of her palace.

Gymnastica (At the time when this is practised.)

Musica (At the time when it is practised.)

Nymphe (Bath, Bridal)

Mesembria is Noon. She is a handmaid of Harmonia, Nurse of the World. She attends the South Wind's gate of Harmonia's dwelling.

Sponde (Libations, Offerings)

Elete (Grinding, Prayer)

Acte (Corn, Meal)

Dysis is Setting. She is a handmaid of Harmonia, Nurse of the World. She attends the West Wind's gate of her dwelling. Nurse of Selene (Moon).

Hesperis (Evening) is by Atlas the mother of the HESPERIDES. She is also said to be the daughter of Hesperus , the son of the TITANS Iapetus & Clymene.

Arctus (Constellation)

THE HORAI (or Horae) were the goddesses of the seasons and the natural portions of time. They presided over the revolutions of the heavenly constellations by which the year was measured, while their three sisters spinned out the web of fate. The Horai also guarded the gates of Olympos and rallied the stars and constellations of heaven.

The Horai were particularly honoured by farmers who planted and tended their crops in time with the rising and setting of the stars--measures of the passing seasons. The three were usually named Eunomia (Good Order, Good Pasture), Eirene (Peace, Spring), and Dike (Justice) goddesses who individually represented the conditions required for farming prosperity. The association of agriculture with law and order can also be found in the divinities of Zeus, Demeter.

Auxo (Growth, Increase)

Auxesia (Growth, Prosperity)

Carpo is the bringer of fruits.

Dike is Justice. She had her dwelling on earth in the times of the Golden Race, and she was still upon the earth in the Silver Age. But when the Race of Bronze was born she left the earth and went to heaven. Dike is also said to be the offspring of Astraeus and Eos (Dawn).

Eirene is Peace. The nurse of Demeter.

Eunomia is Order.

Euporia (Pleanty, Abundance)

Damia (Nursing, Earth)

Eiar (Spring)

Theros (Summer)

Phthinophoron (Autumn)

Cheimon (Winter)

Orthosie (Prosperity)

Pherusa (Bringing Substance)

Thallo Bringer of flowers.