Recently, a Roman intaglio ring sold at a Fellows auction for 450 times its original estimate (https://www.fellows.co.uk/blog/jewellery/2023/04/19/record-breaking-garnet-intaglio/). The garnet intaglio was thought to depict Augustus Caesar but could not be definitely identified as such. This made me think about the various pieces of jewellery I have had or have which include faces and whether or not they can be linked to specific people. Very few can be clearly identified as a portrait of a specific person. Many of the faces I can’t identify belonged to real people but the artist or engraver has not signed the piece and there is no inscription.
I thought I would start with those few pieces in which the face can be identified. The first one is the cameo at the top of the post. Carved in onyx, the person depicted is clearly Queen Victoria. Her profile is unmistakable as is her hair style and hair covering.
The next identifiable face is Beatrice Cenci, an Italian noblewoman, whose portrait was painted by Guido Reni in 1662. Beatrice was found guilty of murdering her father and executed, and her case was a ‘cause celebre’ of the day. This ring contains a porcelain panel with a painting of Beatrice’s face taken from Guido Reni painting. The painting is probably Austrian or German completed in the late Victorian period.
Then we have a painted miniature of Louis XVIII of France, brother of Louis XVI who, with his wife Marie Antoinette, was guillotined in 1793. Louis XVIII was King of France from 1814 to 1824, except for a 100 day period during Napoleon’s escape from Elba in 1815. The painting is a French medallions and is fixés sous verre, that is, fixed under glass with an eglomized gold decoration. Verre églomisé involves a process from antiquity of applying both a design and gilding onto the rear face of glass to produce a mirror finish. The name comes from the 18th-century French picture framer, Jean-Baptiste Glomy, who revived the process.
Next post, I will discuss some of the faces in jewellery I have which can’t be identified as a particular person but can be identified as being of a particular class or group.