Gonzaga cameo portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II. An anonymous carver portrayed the deified royal couple at the moment of their 'sacred marriage' – the queen wears a wedding veil and a laurel wreath, and there is a similar wreath on the king's helmet, with a star and a winged dragon. The aegis of Zeus, adorned with the heads of Medusa and Phobos, is thrown over the king's shoulders, over the armour of a military leader. The master thus emphasised the ideal image of the deified king-hero, established under the influence of the personality of Alexander the Great.
To the left, under a thatched stable roof, sits the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child on her lap; Joseph stands behind her.1700
Cameo portrait of the Emperor Claudius (10 BC-54 AD) with head in profile to the left wearing a laurel wreath tied at the back in a bow with the ribbon ends cascading down the nape of his neck. His corselet has shoulder lappets, each of which is decorated with a scroll and ends in a tassel.The image of Claudius is the largest of the surviving imperial single-portrait cameos. The raised border, cut with a flat top showing the darker layer of the stone, is not uncommon but the carefully cut egg and dart on its outer edge is very rare.
This true museum quality masterpiece, carved in very high-relief, depicts the God of War Mars. ca1800
Cameo portrait of Augustus carved from a three-layered sardonyx, Roman about AD14-20 via The British Museum. The Blacas Cameo, cut in three layers of sardonyx, shows another majestic image of Augustus, and was probably part of the larger piece. As in all such works, the headband was added later, as it was a symbol of Hellenistic royalty – and Augustus himself would not have made such a mistake in his days.
Bust of Zeus, mythological Greek king of the gods, facing to the right and wearing the aegis (Zeus aigiochos). The scaly feathered protective aegis lies over the dress, which shows at the right shoulder and on the chest. It is fastened round the neck by two scaly thongs and fringed with tiny snakes. At the bottom right break, where the stone is cut back to the white, the edge of the hair of a gorgoneion becomes visible. The nose is considerably undercut, the back of the cameo is rough and slightly convex. About two thirds of the oval cameo is missing but this fragment remains one of the finest surviving Hellenistic cameos. The brilliant naturalism of the curling hair and beard, even the bristling scales of the aegis, contrast strongly with the drier, more linear treatment of features on imperial cameos. In comparison this florid treatment suggests that the cameo is still a product of the Hellenistic period, second-first centuries BC. The aegis draped mainly over one shoulder is a type adopted in the Hellenistic period and continued on Roman figures.
Cameo with a bust of the warrior and hero, Hercules, cut in the round. He is bearded and looking over his right shoulder. The lion skin covers his head and is draped over his shoulders. Similar small-scale busts were made by Milanese craftsmen in the grand ducal workshops of Florence to decorate cabinets and other pieces of furniture. The metal socle resembles those used as mounts for the Florentine examples. The ‘heroic’ Hercules representations possibly refer to Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (r. 1537-74). Hercules was the symbol of the city of Florence and it is well known that Cosimo likened himself to the hero.
Cameo of a bust of Elizabeth I (1533-1603) in three-quarter view with her head in profile to the left. She wears an elaborate low-cut gown with square neckline and a high lace ruff. A double-looped chain and pendant hangs around her neck. The raised border is bevelled to reveal the layers of the stone. Extensive studies of the Tudor portrait cameos, in particular those representing Elizabeth I, have identified overwhelming numbers, leading to the assumption of a special form of large organized court workshop. The cameos vary in size, this being one of a group of six with the largest dimensions, all of which are of superb quality. The others are in the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Devonshire collection, Chatsworth House and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.Cameo c. 1575-85.
Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II