Monday, July 25, 2016

Ancient Cameos

Eagle Cameo, Roman 27 B.C. Two-layered onyx
A cameo is a small scene or figure carved in relief. This modern Italian word, meaning "to engrave" is thought to have come from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic word "kamea", meaning "charm" or "amulet."

Folklore relates cameos' mystic power to attract health and good fortune. The enduring popularity of the cameo attests to its ability to beguile generations of wearers and viewers alike. Artistic cameos were made in Greece as early as the 3rd Century BC.

Cameo portrait of Augustus AD 14-20

The world’s largest cameo (cameo Tiberius) is stored in the Cabinet of medals in Paris. It is made of onyx and measures 31 x 26 cm
The word cameo specifically describes a relief image raised higher than its background and carved from one material. In contrast, if the artist carves down into the stone to hollow out a recessed image, the resulting work is called an "intaglio". Intaglios and cameos can be made in any material, but the most popular are of stone, coral, shell, glass and fine metals.

Originally intaglios had a practical as well as decorative purpose. When brushed with ink or wax, the intaglio can be used as a seal or identifying stamp to mark a letter or document.

Sardonyx cameo depicting the god Pan.

Athena and Poseidon. Cameo. Onyx 1c BC

August and Triton team, after 27 AD

Bloodstone made in Italy at the end of the 18th century with the depiction of Menelaus.