Enfilade

Gemmae Antiquae, Part II

Posted in catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 2, 2009

From the website of the Hermitage:

The Fate of One Collection
500 Carved Stones from the Collection of the Dukes of Orléans
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, ongoing exhibition

Gillas, "Head of Olympic Zeus of Phidias," sardonyx,  1st Century BCE

Gillas, "Head of Olympic Zeus of Phidias," sardonyx, 1st Century BCE (Hermitage)

On October 30, 2001 an exhibition entitled The Fate of One Collection: 500 Carved Stones of the Collection of the Dukes of Orléans opened in the Golden Room of the Winter Palace. The exhibition continues the series of temporary exhibits dedicated to famous European collections, the foundation of the Hermitage art collections. The exhibition showcases 500 gems, dating from the 4th century B.C. to the mid-18th century, which represents one-third of the collection of the Dukes of Orléans.

In 1787 Catherine the Great ordered to acquire from Louis Philippe Joseph of Orléans the collection of 1500 gems of the familial collection of the Dukes of Orléans, representatives of the junior branch of the French royal dynasty.

The collection’s central exhibit is the collection of Heidelberg Castle gems. The collection was started by Count Palatine Otto-Heinrich (1502-1559). Antique gems comprise the largest part of the Heidelberg Castle collection. It includes rare pieces of the Hellenic epoch and pieces dating back to
masters of Republican and Augustine Rome and the time of Soldier Emperors.

"Jupiter, Mercury and Cupid, Mars and Neptune Surrounded by Zodiac Signs," 16th-century Italy (Hermitage)

"Jupiter, Mercury and Cupid, Mars and Neptune Surrounded by Zodiac Signs," 16th-century Italy (Hermitage)

In 1685 the collection was inherited by Elisabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine, who married Duke Philippe of Orléans. Thanks to this dynastic marriage the Gemmae Study passed on to the Dukes of Orléans. Elisabeth-Charlotte continued adding to the collection, and acquired the gems representing different stages of ancient glyptics, including works by famous masters, such as Aulus, Rufus, Sostrates, and Trypho. A larger part of the works dates back to Renaissance and Baroque epochs.

In 1741 the grandchild of Elisabeth-Charlotte, Duke Louis III of Orleans, acquired the Paris collection of carved stones, which had belonged to Pierre Crozat, one of the most famous collectors in Europe. Of special interest in his collection are the cameos of the pure Byzantium style. A large collection of entails and cameos demonstrates the glyptics of Italy, France, Germany and the Netherlands of the 15th – early 18th centuries. Among the masterpieces of the European portrait is the portrait of Henry II of France by A. Cesati, poetized by Giorgio Vasari.

"The Fate of One Collection: 500 Carved Stones from the Room of Duke of Orleans."

"The Fate of One Collection: 500 Carved Stones from the Room of Duke of Orleans."

Among the Dukes of Orléans, last owners of the gem collections, there were no such art connoisseurs as Elisabeth-Charlotte and Pierre Crozat. However, during this time rare Etruscan scarabs and gems of the 15th – 18th centuries were added to the collection along with several glyptic portraits, talismans and grillae (human heads and animal bodies). Sassanian Iran and European Renaissance are represented by one work each.

The exhibition includes descriptions, catalogs of collections and engravings, dedicated to gems of the Dukes of Orléans, and pictures of castles and palaces where the collection was kept at various times. Sections of the exhibit reconstructing separate collections of the 16th – early 18th centuries, which belonged to the Dukes of Orléans, are highlighted. Slavia Publishers presents The Fate of One Collection. 500 Carved Stones from the Room of Duke of Orleans. Introduction is by Y. O. Kogan and O. Y. Neverov.

[Credits: Images and text (with minor spelling modifications) taken from the Hermitage website]

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