Cameo Gem with Portrait of Emperor Augustus

Object Name: 
Cameo Gem with Portrait of Emperor Augustus

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Object Name: 
Cameo Gem with Portrait of Emperor Augustus
Place Made: 
Accession Number: 
2012.3.12
Dimensions: 
Overall H: 3.3 cm, Th: 0.5 cm
Location: 
Not on Display
Date: 
1800-1825
Credit Line: 
Purchased with funds from the Arthur Rubloff Residuary Trust
Web Description: 
This partially preserved cameo glass portrait of the Roman emperor Augustus (63 B.C. – A.D. 14) is a later European copy of an ancient Roman gem. The survival of the Roman cameo from antiquity is attested by a plaster cast in the Paoletti collection, now housed in the Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi. The plaster cast was published by Lucia Pirzio Stefanelli, La collezione Paoletti: stampi in vetro per impronte di intaglio e cammei (2007), no. MR 26435. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the ancient cameo are not known. The glass used for the portrait is a brownish-amber transparent glass, which was placed over colorless transparent glass. The gem was manufactured by casting the amber glass in a mold, and adhering it to an oval colorless cast glass disk. Some additional engraving may have been done to the gem following its casting in order to refine the facial details and emphasize the curls of the hair. Throughout the late 18th and 19th century there were a number of European gem engravers who not only created their own works based on ancient styles and prototypes, but who also made extremely refined copies of known ancient gems. In some instances, these artists signed their work in emulation of ancient gem engravers, thus we know the name of Anton Pichler, for example. No signature survives on the proposed gem, and it is not possible to know whether such a signature was ever preserved on the portion of the gem that is now missing. What is clear, however, is that whoever was responsible for its manufacture was a skilled gem engraver who was familiar with working in glass as well as hardstone. Such gems, whether ancient or modern, were avidly collected by connoisseurs on the Grand Tour, who hoped to make a personal association with the ancient world by acquiring its remains. If an individual could not afford to purchase the precious stone or glass gemstones themselves, they would acquire plaster or wax casts of famous gem collections in order to illustrate their knowledge of antiquity and its art. Martine, Comtesse de Béhague (1869-1939), was a highly-cultured French noblewoman living in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. Her travels aboard her private yacht took her to Italy, as well as around the shores of the Mediterranean, where she collected small and large objects to create a private collection of antiquities and other works of art. Gemstones, including this cameo, were among the materials she collected, as well as sculpture and decorative arts. Her collection was sold at auction by her heirs in Monaco in 1987.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd., Source
2012-04-17
Christie's, London, Former Collection
2007-04-25
Sotheby's, Monaco, Former Collection
1987-12-05
Martine, Comtesse de Behague ((French, 1870-1939)), Former Collection
Technique: 
Material: 
Primary Description: 
Cameo Gem with Portrait of Emperor Augustus. Transparent brownish-amber and colorless glass; cast, possibly engraved. This object is a partially preserved cameo glass portrait of the Roman emperor Augustus (63 B.C.- A.D. 14). The glass used for the portrait is a brownish-amber transparent glass, which was placed over colorless transparent glass. The gem was manufactured by casting the amber glass in a mold, and adhering it to an oval colorless cast glass disk. Some additional engraving may have been done to the gem following its casting in order to refine the facial details and emphasize the curls of the hair.
The Corning Museum of Glass: Notable Acquisitions 2012 (2013) illustrated, p. 17, #9; BIB# AI95675
Notes: Corning Museum Makes Significant Acqusitions in 2012 (2013) illustrated, p. 252, #8; BIB# AI98180
Recent Acquisitions (2012) illustrated, p. 13 (left); BIB# AI93452
The Corning Museum of Glass Annual Report 2012 (2012) illustrated, p. 7; BIB# AI94590