Ariel from the Tempest by Shakespeare
  • Material: Cornelian Shell, 18k gold tested
  • Size: 2 1/2" by 2 1/8" only cameo is 2 1/8" by 1 6/8"
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1850 Italy, frame could be English.
  • Conditions: Mint.

Highest Museum quality cameo depicting Ariel on bat. Lovely rare and unusual subject matter for a cameo. The cameo is after a painting by Joseph Severn of the mischievous sprite Ariel, from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  The text reads: 

Where the bee sucks there suck I, 
In a cowslip's bell I lie, 
There I couch where owls do cry, 
On the bat's back I do fly.
After summer merrily; merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough..."

At least two original Severn paintings of Ariel & Bat are known to exist, please see pictures below. Joseph Severn was born in 1793. He went to Rome in 1820 and became friends with the poet Keats. Keats died in his house in 1821. Severn returned to London in 1841. He later returned to Rome in 1861 and died there in 1879. Severn and Keats are buried side by side. The subject of Ariel occupied Severn for over ten years: the first painting is dated 1826 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) This version was shown to enthusiastic reviews in 1830. The second known painting with same subject matter is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is evident this cameo closely resembles the painting. A similar cameo of Ariel & Bat is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum London. This cameo is outstanding, the carving is more than superb, just look at the body of Ariel, at the bat and at his wings which are truly magnificently rendered. Shell is lighter in color on the left side, and this is just natural at it is a bit waved just where it is lighter, I'm driven to think that choosing a one side lighter color shell was made for a specific reason. In fact if you look at both paintings, you can see that both are more luminous just on the left side to surely represent the light after a thunderstorm or a sort of dawn or aurora. So I think that the carver just wanted to use a so multi colored shell to follow precisely the subject of the painting. The frame too is another artwork, finely engraved and chiselled. I have not cleaned it leaving that wonderful antique patina given it by more than one and half century.  An out of this world cameo. Everything in this cameo is poetry and amazingly carved.  All the details are just perfect.  This is another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rarest  and museum quality cameo.