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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Gemmae Antiquae, Part I

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 1, 2009

From the Getty Villas’s website:

Carvers and Collectors: The Lasting Allure of Ancient Gems

Getty Villa, Los Angeles, 19 March – 7 September 2009

ancient-gems-finger-sm

Jeffrey Spier, Ancient Gems and Finger Rings: Catalogue of the Collections (Getty Museum, 1993), ISBN 978-0-89236-215-8 ($70)

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Gems from the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum (For individual identifications, click on the image)

The beauty of carved gemstones has captivated collectors, connoisseurs, and craftsmen since antiquity. Precious markers of culture and status, gems were sought by Greek and Roman elites as well as modern monarchs and aristocrats. This exhibition features intaglios and cameos carved by ancient master engravers along with outstanding works by modern carvers and works of art in diverse media that illustrate the lasting allure of gems. . . .

In antiquity, gems were engraved with personal or official insignia that, when impressed on wax or clay, were used to sign or seal documents. Carved gems were valued not only for their distinctive designs, but also for the beauty of their stones, some of which were believed to have magical properties. From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, rulers, nobles, and wealthy merchants sought and traded classical gems, and carvers produced replicas and forgeries.

Augustin de Saint-Aubin after Charles-Nicolas Cochin II French Engraving in François Arnaud, Description des principales pierres gravées du cabinet de S.A.S. Monseigneur le duc d'Orléans... (Description of the Principal Engraved Gems in the Cabinet of His Serene Highness, the Duke of Orleans...) (Paris, 1870) Research Library, The Getty Research Institute 85-B16748

Augustin de Saint-Aubin after Charles-Nicolas Cochin II, engraving in François Arnaud, Description des principales pierres gravées du cabinet de S.A.S. Monseigneur le duc d'Orléans. . . (Paris, 1870) The Getty Research Institute 85-B16748

Sumptuous engraved catalogues of gem collections were published in the days before photography. Like the gems they illustrated, these volumes functioned as luxury objects. The engravings in these books sometimes improve upon the already excellent carving of the gems themselves. Louis Philippe d’Orléans (1725–1785), the great-grandson of King Louis XIV of France, published his gem collection in an elaborately engraved volume dedicated to his cousin King Louis XVI. The frontispiece, shown here, depicts the duke himself and also represents the superiority of gems over other art forms: in the foreground, two cupids inspect the contents of drawers pulled from a large gem cabinet, while symbols of architecture, sculpture, and painting are relegated to the upper right and lower left corners. . . .

Since the Renaissance, gem carvers have attempted to equal and surpass their ancient counterparts. Because of the high demand for classical gems, some carvers, dealers, and collectors sought to pass off modern works as ancient. Some even forged the signatures of famous Greek and Roman carvers. No scientific method exists for proving the antiquity of gems, and quality is no proof of authenticity. Thus it is usually some deviation in style or imagery that reveals a piece to be modern. . . .

Engraved Gem, signed by Giovanni Pichler; or Luigi Pichler, ca. 1750-1850

Engraved Gem, signed by Giovanni Pichler or Luigi Pichler, ca. 1750-1850

Austrian carver Antonio (Johann Anton) Pichler worked in Rome in the 1700s copying ancient gems. His son Giovanni also became an accomplished gem carver, as did Giovanni’s half-brothers Giuseppe and Luigi and Giovanni’s son Giacomo. Luigi was the most renowned: he received commissions from the Vatican and the French and Austrian courts to carve both classical and contemporary subjects. This intaglio is modeled after a famous relief of Antinous (the beloved of the Roman emperor Hadrian) housed in the Villa Albani, Rome. The fact that the gem is signed “Pichler” in Greek indicates no intention to deceive but rather an emulative spirit, the artist vying with his ancient predecessors.

[Text and images from the Getty Villa exhibition website]