Cameos - Part 2: 19th Century
In last week's blog, Cameos - Part I: 18th Century, we looked at the history of cameos, what they are, and the rise of cameos in 18th-century jewelry fashion. This week, we look at the heyday of cameos in European fashion as they flourished and reached peak demand in the 19th century.
A carved shell cameo suite of a necklace and five brooches. Two brooches show the Roman goddess Minerva and the other three illustrate scenes from classical mythology. The necklace depicts Bacchante, Juno, Minerva, Apollo, Mars, and Diana on large cameos and dancing figures on small ones. Italian carving, French goldwork and design, c.1840. Gift of the Misses Cornelia and Susan Dehon in memory of Mrs. Sidney Brooks - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
While the 18th-century saw the start of the cameo-collecting craze, many were stowed away in collector’s cases and cabinets while comparatively few were mounted in jewelry and worn. When they were, they seemed to most often take the form of individual brooches, buttons, rings, and pins. By contrast, the 19th-century saw a strengthening in the fashion for wearable cameos, and they weren’t just worn as single delicate pieces, but en masse, in earrings, necklaces, tiaras, bracelets, and more.
A mid-19th century Italian necklace with five horizontal oval shell cameos of mythological scenes alternating with five smaller vertically set ovals containing cameos of classical women's busts in profile. Each piece is connected by small loops to rosettes which at one time had pendants. The metal around the bezel is stamped into an elaborate openwork high relief scroll design, probably gold.
Gift of Miss Elizabeth G. Norton - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Earrings, a cruciform brooch, another brooch, a bracelet, and a necklace from a cameo and ruby parure depicting both Renaissance and classical scenes; from Roman Gods, to Hercules' 12 labors, to pastoral and domestic scenes, to The Sacrifice of Isaac. Turin, Italy, c.1824-29
A gold and shell cameo parure comprising a necklace, a pair of bracelets, a comb and diadem, and a pair of earrings, all set with shell cameos depicting classical and mythological scenes framed by three-tone floral and foliate motifs, c.1850s - From Sotheby's
Louis-Philippe era (King of France 1830-1848) cameo and gold parure
Cameo parure from the Peabody Essex Museum c.1820 - from @dames_a_la_mode via Instagram
Left: A pair of gold earrings decorated with shell cameos of putti, Italy, c.1810-20. Jewels with portraits or sentimental symbols of love, such as butterflies, doves, and cupids, were always very popular. Right: Pair of earrings, carved malachite cameos of classical figures set in gold, Italy, c.1840-50
©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Left: Pair of earrings, enameled gold set with paste cameos of classical female heads, probably English, c. 1865. Right: Pair of earrings with layered agate cameos of classical female heads: one is Omphale wearing the lion-skin of Hercules. They are surrounded by diamond sparks set in silver and surmounted by a pearl. These earrings were made by the Franco-German engraver Jean Georges Bissinger, France, c.1880-1900
©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
A bracelet with seven carved coral 'cameos', set in gold corded wire borders. c.1830
Subject matters remained largely the same throughout the 18th and 19th centuries - depicting mythological heroes and events, important figures (both historical and contemporary), paintings, or biblical scenes - though profiles enjoyed increased popularity in the Victorian era. For many people, being able to recognize the source of a carving in a cameo was a mark of distinguished education, revealing in both the wearer and the identifier a deep knowledge of Classical art.
Magnificent, large, antique cameo brooch in 18k gold depicting a mythological baroque scene, after Guido Reni's Aurora, c.1870 - Via 1stdibs
A hinged bracelet with a Nicolo cameo, the chalcedony background stained black, depicting five putti: the central figure holding a horn, two holding birds, and the putto at the right restraining what appears to be a hunting dog. The goldwork with two decorative palmettes is inspired by ancient Greek design. Made by Tiffany & Co., c.1880 - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Agate cameo brooch depicting the Birth of Venus with a diamond surround, probably Italian, c.1830-40
From Peter Szuhay
Italian gold brooch set with a malachite cameo of 'Night', a winged female bearing two sleeping children. After Bertel Thorvaldsen, c.1840 - © The Trustees of the British Museum
Pendant with a layered agate cameo depicting the head of Hercules, set in enameled gold with Columbian emeralds and a sapphire, England, c.1850, with the cameo made c.1800-1810
19th-century agate cameo brooch of Hercules set with diamonds, the brooch in silver and gold
From Peter Szuhay
A selection of onyx, sardonyx, and shell cameos in various 19th-century settings of gold, silver, and pearls: featuring several classical heads in profile, several helmeted warriors (Minerva of Aspasios in the center and possibly Mars above), Lord Nelson in classical style (bottom left), Bacchus (middle left), and Alexander the Great in classical style (bottom right) - © The Trustees of the British Museum
A pendant with a hardstone cameo of a classical male head surrounded by marcasites set in silver openwork and hung with pearls, possibly Switzerland, c.1810-20
A pendant with a bloodstone cameo depicting the head of Christ, on the reverse is a bloodstone cameo depicting the Virgin Mary; set in a gold frame with cannetille (wire spiral) ornament. France, c. 1840.
Pendant with a chalcedony cameo of Cleopatra, based on a classical type of a Bacchante with snakes, in a contemporary enameled gold frame with ribbon ties, Europe, c.1840-1900
A gold ring with a Saxon agate cameo of Napoleon Bonaparte, c.1810, signed below the neck in Greek letters: ΛΜ (L.M.). These initials probably refer to Luigi Michelini, a pupil of Giuseppe Girometti who worked in Paris - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021
Gold brooch bordered with garnets and set with a resin 'cameo' of a full-length portrait of William Shakespeare holding a scroll and leaning on a column, England, c.1815
A gold ring with an onyx cameo of George IV set into a faceted garnet, c.1820. The Royal goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, regularly supplied George IV with finger rings set with cameos and intaglios cut with his likeness. These were seemingly intended as gifts to the King’s favorites.
A commemorative bracelet with a sardonyx cameo of Princess Charlotte of Wales (the only child of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick), depicted as a Roman empress with a diadem in her hair and an ancient-style necklace. She died in childbirth at the age of 21, in 1817. The gold mesh bracelet is decorated with cannetille and grainti gold ornamentation, c.1820
A brooch with a sardonyx cameo of jugate profile portraits of Georges I, II, III & IV, surrounded by a silver wreath of rose-cut diamond laurel and palm leaves surmounted by a crown, c.1820
A commemorative brooch/pendant with a sardonyx cameo of Frederick, Duke of York (George IV’s younger brother) posed heroically. The staining technique was developed in Idar, Germany, and the mount is gold, black enamel, and diamond-set in the form of an ouroboros, c.1827
Jasper-agate cameo of double portrait profile heads of Henri IV of France and Marie de Medici set in an enameled gold setting, French, c.1870-1881 - © The Trustees of the British Museum
An agate cameo brooch supposedly of a German philosopher, the cameo c.1780, the frame possibly later, c.1820. The 18-carat gold frame is modeled as two snakes - Antique Animal Jewelry
Ancient Roman cameo in 19th century Italian gold work pendant, c.1860
From Peter Szuhay
A brooch with a c.1550-1650 agate cameo of a panther in a gold 19th-century setting, possibly Italy, c.1830
Gold ring with a layered onyx cameo depicting a crouching cat in a 'Roman' setting, possibly made in England, c.1825. The cameo has been reset in a ring by the Reverence Chauncey Hare Townshend (1798-1868). Townshend was a poet and friends with Robert Southey, William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, and Charles Dickens, and shared his interest in spiritualism and mesmerism.
This Garter badge (lesser George) with an agate cameo and diamond surround was probably made for George IV and was possibly worn by Queen Victoria as one of two Garter badges she frequently wore
The Popularity of Shell Cameos
In the 19th-century, shell cameos were all the rage. The hardstone and gemstone cameos that had colored the 18th-century were reduced to being a minority of the cameo market, as shell cameos were not only impressive and intricate but were more affordable and faster to produce. While hardstone cameos took months to create and required a specialty lathe with steel drills and wheels, shell cameos took only a handful of days and could be carved by hand, with a burin or engraving tool.
There were many advantages to shells like Cornelian shells which grew rapidly, offered up a range of orangey and pink hues, were softer and easier to carve, and had more colored layers and natural rises and falls from which to create complex and beautiful designs. Due to their affordability, they were donned by the wealthy elite and the wider public alike. They were also particularly prized by Grand Tourists wanting to bring back souvenirs from their travels. With the end of the French Revolution (in the late 1790s) and the associated revolutionary wars, it was finally safe to travel again to the Continent, creating an influx of British tourists to Europe's cultural capitals. The cameo industry in Europe boomed, especially in Italy.
A gold and shell cameo parure, Italian, probably Naples, mid-19th century. The parure consists of earrings, a necklace, and two bracelets (1 | 2). The cameos all bear typical Grand Tour images, including (on the necklace’s clasp) Guido Reni’s Aurora fresco of 1614, mythological scenes, peasants of the Roman campagna, and (on both the pin and the necklace) Bertel Thorvaldsen’s ever-popular marble relief Night of 1815. Billing doves grace the earrings, and on one of the bracelets are a comely marine divinity and a dolphin. The flimsy fittings of stamped gold filigree suggest this was costume jewelry, not meant to be worn often - Gift of Mrs. John D. Jones, 1899 - ©Metropolitan Museum
A cameo bracelet with four shell cameos carved in unusually high relief. Each one illustrates a mythological scene and is set in a decorative and shaped bezel, surrounded by a beaded metal wire and an openwork repeating design of stylized leaves separated by balls. Probably Italian, c.1860 The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Necklace with shell cameos mounted in gold, Italy, c.1810. The cameos in the necklace show subjects such as cupids, pairs of doves, and the altar of love. Jewels with portraits or symbols of love, such as butterflies, doves, and cupids, were very popular. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Necklace of shell cameos set in gold slips depicting scenes of wine and love, Italy, c.1800
A sentimental brooch with five shell cameos featuring putti, pairs of doves, and the altar of love, mounted in gold, Italy, c.1810-20 - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Regency-era shell cameos loose from a broken antique necklace/collar and sensitively remounted as rings: Top left: an 18-carat gold cameo ring showing Cupid kissing a goat. Top middle: an 18-carat gold cameo ring of a Cherub in his chariot. Top right: an 18 and 22-carat gold cameo ring depicting Cupid and Psyche. Middle left, center, middle right, and bottom left: 4 camo rings depicting cherubs and dogs - love & fidelity (1 | 2 | 3 | 4). Bottom right: some of the rings together - Antique Animal Jewelry
Charming Victorian shell cameo earrings, c.1870, each cameo carved with a dove, the drops separated from the tops by a brown diamond - Antique Animal Jewelry
A Victorian shell cameo of a group of figures in a pearl surround frame
Via Lang Antiques
Gold-mounted conch shell cameo of Zeus-Serapis brooch, c.1840, with a locket back
From Peter Szuhay
Mid-19th century Italian brooch, the shell cameo set in gold in a bezel surrounded with an openwork wire and ball frame. The image shows a wingèd goddess strewing flowers with a cupid on her back carrying a torch. This is a conflation of Venus with her cupid and Victory with the upright lit torch which was a Renaissance interpretation of Flora. Since the pinback was a later addition and there are holes suitable for the attachment of several strands of beads, probably pearls, this was likely originally a bracelet or necklace Gift of Miss Elizabeth G. Norton - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Brooch with a shell cameo of the Three Graces set in gold with garnets, England, c.1850
Bracelet with a shell cameo of Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge (the 6th son of George III), made by G. G. Adams and based on a pencil drawing, c.1850-70. The cameo is set into an articulated gold matt bracelet with a silver centerpiece of diamonds, pearls, and a green enamel laurel wreath. The bracelet belonged to his wife, the Duchess - the laurel wreath symbolizing the triumph of love and the diamonds constancy. - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021
19th-century Italian brooch depicting a small bunch of five flowers including a jonquil and a tulip which emerge from multiple stems. Several different leaves are also part of the decoration Gift of Mrs. Grosvenor Calkins - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
19th-century gold-filled shell cameo brooches of a woman seated under a tree reading a book, a woman in profile with a more elaborate frame, and a three-quarter view of a woman in a plain frame
Queen Victoria herself is credited with making shelled cameos popular in the 19th century, wearing examples of her coveted shell cameo jewelry in official portraits. One such example is a Badge of the Order of Victoria and Albert worn by Victoria in a portrait, carved by Tommaso Saulini of Rome.
A Badge of the Order of Victoria and Albert (3rd class), c. 1864, made by Tommaso Saulini. The badge cameo shows the jugate heads of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in profile to the left. It is surrounded by a frame of pearls with four diamonds, surmounted by a gold crown set with rubies and emeralds. This badge is not Victoria's but is probably that of Elizabeth, Duchess of Wellington (d.1904), Mistress of the Robes, 1861-8 and 1874-80 - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021
French Empire Cameos - The Bonapartes
Although the Napoleonic wars put Grand Tours on hold, cameos continued to enjoy enormous popularity through Napoleon's reach and influence. Napoléon Bonaparte was a cameo-lover through and through. With his desire to imbue his own reign with the illustriousness of Antiquity, setting neoclassical cameos into majestic pieces of contemporary jewelry was the perfect fashion for the French empire.
Napoléon wore a cameo to his own wedding, and after Empress Josephine wore a cameo-set suite to Napoléon's coronation in 1804, cameo-laden parures that included tiaras became fashionable among Napoleon's sisters and the ladies of his court. The fashion soon swept across Europe. Napoleon further promoted the art of cameo-making when he founded a school in Paris, which he populated with carvers from across Europe, to teach the art of cameo carving to young apprentices.
This prestigious pearl and cameo tiara was reputedly first made for Empress Joséphine, worn in the portrait on the left by her daughter Hortense de Beauharnais (via Wikimedia Commons). It was then gifted to Empress Joséphine's granddaughter - Josephine of Leuchtenberg - upon her death. The portraits on the right show Josephine of Leuchtenberg wearing the tiara as Princess of Sweden (through marriage), and later as Queen of Sweden (via Pinterest). The tiara has remained in the Swedish Bernadotte family ever since, and it has become a tradition for Bernadotte brides to wear the tiara on their wedding day.
Empress Joséphine's shell cameo diadem, presented to her by her brother-in-law, Joachim Murat. Gold, shell, mother-of-pearl, cameos, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones.
Photo via jewellermagazine.
Empress Joséphine's malachite cameo parure including a malachite cameo tiara, c.1810
Another of Empress Joséphine's cameo parures - From Chaumet - Empress Josephine
A rare gold bracelet cuff with agate cameos and pearl borders, the central cameo is supported by two floral motifs in yellow gold. The cameos depict three female profiles. The style matches the cameo tiara made by Nitot for Empress Josephine in 1811 following a commission from Napoleon. This bracelet was offered by Empress Josephine to the 'Bne de Lascours, born Givonne at the time of the departure of the Tuileries towards Malmaison.' - Via Maison Osenat
Pauline Bonaparte in her cameo parure
Pauline Borghèse (Bonaparte)'s gold tiara comb set with sardonyx cameos, c.1803, made by Marie-Étienne Nitot & François Regnault Nitot - Via Wikimedia Commons
A gold and coral cameo parure with a brooch, necklace, earrings, bracelet, crown, c.1810-1812, belonging to Caroline Bonaparte (Napoleon Bonaparte's sister), Joachim Murat's wife and Queen of Naples. From the exhibition on Joachim Murat at Royal Palace of Naples, via Flikr
In the 19th century, a new type of cameo emerged - made of petrified lava from the archeological site of Pompeii. Grand Tourists went mad for these beautifully carved pieces of history from Pompeii itself, and owning mementos made from this prized material became a symbol of status, wealth, and education.
Pendant with a cameo of Flora, Southern Italy, c.1850-60. Limestone cameo set in gold. The stone was commonly described as petrified 'lava' - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cameo of a female profile in lava - Via Lang Antiques
19th-century gold and lava set comprising a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings, and a cross pendant. The cameos were made in Naples and then gold mounted in Dublin.
Respected Names in 19th Century Cameo Jewelry
Given that Queen Victoria herself owned cameos carved by Tommaso Saulini of Rome, his became the name on everyone's lips with regard to 19th-century neoclassical jewelry. Through the English sculptor John Gibson (1790-1866) who lived in Rome, Saulini received frequent commissions for cameos from Queen Victoria in the years 1854-60. Alongside his, were other names like Castellani, Carlo Giuliano, and respected companies like Child & Child.
Badges of the Order of Victoria and Albert (1st class), cameos carved by Tommaso Saulini, each set by Garrard's, the royal jeweler, in a surround of diamonds surmounted by a crown set with rubies and emeralds and pinned to a white moiré ribbon. Left: a badge presented to Princess Helena by her mother, Queen Victoria, for her confirmation, c.1860-2. Middle: a badge bequeathed by Queen Victoria to her daughter, Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg, c.1863. Right: a badge presented by Queen Victoria to Princess Alexandra of Denmark on the day before her wedding to the Prince of Wales, which the Princess wore on her wedding dress. - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021
Cameos carved by Tommaso Saulini - the gold bracelet, c.1850s, is in archaeological style with applied scrolls of filigree and three onyx cameos of Medusa, Venus, and Hymen. The brooches are c.1860s featuring shell cameos of Roma (Minerva) and 'Dawn' (Aurora driving her biga) and another onyx cameo. The borders are 'filigree' enamel and beads and twisted-wire - © The Trustees of the British Museum
A gold brooch set with a shell cameo, carved by Tommaso Saulini, of the profile portrait head of the Prince of Wales with an engraved signature, made in Rome, c.1863
Cameo brooch with gold scrollwork and a shell cameo of a naked youth - Ariel - with a large feather in his left hand, on the back of a flying bat - taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest (Act 5, Scene 1) and closely resembling a painting by Joseph Severn called On the Bat's Back I Do Fly, 1826. The cameo was probably made by the studio of Tommaso Saulini. England, c.1840 - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Onyx cameo profile portrait of Henry Somerset, 7th Duke of Beaufort, in a massive gold archaeological-style setting with multiple corded wire strands, wirework scrolls, and beading, Rome, c.1850. Engraved by Luigi Saulini, son of Tommaso Saulini who continued the family studio after his father's death.
A mid-19th-century cameo parure carved by Luigi Saulini, son of Tommaso Saulini who continued the family studio after his father's death. The large stone in the tiara represents the toilet of Nausicaa, a rare subject even in ancient art. All but one of the other cameos copy ancient marbles. The bust in the brooch is of the Vatican's Apollo Belvedere. The three large stones in the necklace cite the statues Discobolus, Cupid and Psyche, and Cupid Stringing His Bow. The unsigned nude youth with a hoop and a paddle on the clasp is after a long-lost ancient intaglio Johann Joachim Winckelmann singled out in his Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture, published in 1755. ©The Metropolitan Museum
19th-century cameos from the workshop of Castellani: A bracelet with six openwork square gold links of nine compartments set with cabochon emeralds, rubies, and gold beads, alternating with six chalcedony cameos showing the heads of Roman Emperors, c.1860; a gold brooch with a sapphire cameo head of Medusa in a heavy ropework setting bordered with pearls, stopped at the outer edge with minute cabochon rubies; a necklace of carved classical figures - © The Trustees of the British Museum
To meet the growing demand for cameos, many European carvers set up shop in London, including the German carver William Schmidt, who produced cameos for top London jewelers like John Brogden. In fact, Schmidt was supposedly the first to carve cameos out of opal, which John Brogden reportedly displayed in the Paris Exhibition of 1878.
An opal cameo of a profile head of a helmeted warrior (Minerva?) set in enameled gold with a border of dots and fretwork pattern in white and blue enamel, flanked by silver leaves set with diamonds. Attributed to Wilhelm Schmidt, London, c.1900 - © The Trustees of the British Museum
A gold archeological-style parure comprising a necklace, earrings, and a bracelet, set with seven labradorite cameos depicting classical gods and heroes in gold ropework mounts. Made by A.Borgen & Co, Archaelogical Goldsmiths, the cameos attributed to Wilhelm Schmidt, c.1869-1879
Shell cameo brooch and earrings by John Brogden, English, c.1870. The brooch is a Bull’s Mouth shell cameo of the Greek goddess Selene riding a serpentine dragon, in a frame of gold beading, twisted gold wire, and four gold palmette plaques placed at the cardinal points. The earrings also feature Bull’s Mouth shell cameos of Selene with a crescent-set headdress, the frames matching the brooch, with pendants of horizontal bars of gold beading and twisted gold wires suspending gold link chains graduated from the center and ending in conical gold elements - From Berganza
Left: Enamelled gold earrings set with layered agate cameos, imitating ancient masks. Right: Part of the same suite, a necklace in the archaeological style with layered agate cameos of antique masks. Both were designed by Mrs. Philip Newman, made by the firm of John Brogden, and shown at the International Exhibition, Paris in 1867 - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Throughout the 19th-century, jewelers worked in many historical styles, reviving periods past in new and exciting ways...
An Italian coral revivalist jewelry suite, c.1850s, including a necklace, brooch, and earrings. The carved coral elements of the necklace and brooch depict Bacchus, rams and female figures, and grapes, many of which are connected by delicate gold leaves and wirework. The earrings consist of a gold cresent shape with carved coral grapes at one end and a hanging coral vessel.
The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection - © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Etruscan revival jewelry came to popularity during the 1860s and 1870s. The Victorian imagination was captured by the archeological discoveries of Herculaneum and Pompeii, as well as Etruscan tombs on the Western coast of Italy full of treasures and fine jewelry. Lapis, malachite, and agates were all characteristic of Etruscan revival jewelry, and gold was worked in new ways using granulation and filigree in layered designs. This created a new wave of Etruscan revival agate cameos in fine, layered goldwork settings.
Etruscan revival pendant with an agate cameo of Christ and St John the Baptist, probably Rome, c.1880
From Peter Szuhay
Towards the end of the 19th century, fashion moved from classical subjects in cameos to a renewed interest in subjects from the Renaissance. The jeweler John Brogden was known for his Revivalist jewels, particularly Rennaissance Revival, and designers like Mrs. Philip Newman (Charlotte Newman) worked for him, creating jewels in that style. Georges Bissenger was a French gem-engraver of German birth also very well known for working in cameo in the Renaissance Revival style.
These pieces are part of a set evoking the Renaissance with their intricately sculpted gold frames set with pearls. This was probably one of the last sets of jewelry to be sold by the Paris jeweler François-Désiré Froment-Meurice before his death in 1855. Left: A pendant featuring a coral cameo of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine Middle: a brooch with a coral cameo of the Greek god Apollo, the patron god of music and poetry. Right: a brooch with a coral cameo of the Greek goddess Venus, the patron goddess of love.
©Victoria & Albert Museum, London