antique georgian cameo

Antique 1800s Georgian Plaster Cameo Hermaphroditus and Salmacis

Hermaphroditus and Salmacis, Antique 1840s Georgian Period Plaster Cameo, Small Oval Cameo with Neo Classical Mediterranean Landscape Art, Vintage Grand Tour of Europe Souvenirs, Victorian Antiques and Collectibles for Home Decor


Very old and excellent crafted Cameo devoted to a mythological episode in which Hermaphroditus suffered an attempt of rape by the naiad nymph Salmacis near a water fountain. These are the original genuine plaster intaglios made circa 1840 by John Tyrrell and still having his trademark cat crest and signature on the gilt paper wrapped edge. These intaglios came in there original wooden stacking trays and are very clean even if a few have rubbing on there high points. All gilt paper wrapped and numbered as they should be. Measures as shown 1 inch or 25mm approximate. Beazley archive number T232.


Original genuine plaster intaglios made by John Tyrrell, with his trademark cat crest and signature on the gilt paper wrapped edge. Beazley archive number T232 and part of the Poniatowski collection. Prince Stanislas Poniatowski (1754-1833) was a Polish aristocrat and an avid collector of antiquities, famous for his extraordinary collection of 2500 intaglios inspired by Greek and Roman mythology. Poniatowski encouraged the belief that the intaglios were genuinely ancient when in fact they were privately commissioned and had been carved by a group of contemporary engravers in Rome (most are now believed to of been carved by the famous gem carver Pichler) who signed them with either known or invented signatures. 
In 1830 the "Catalogue des Pierres Gravees Antiques de SA le Prince Stanislas Poniatowski" was published, a catalogue listing all the gems together with detailed descriptions. After Poniatowski’s death in 1833 the collection in its entirety was sold at Christie’s in 1839. It was only after the sale that great controversy surrounded the genuine provenance of the intaglios and they were later recognized to be modern reproductions.
Fortunately a collector, John Tyrrell, acquired approximately 1,700 intaglios in the belief that they were genuine as an investment. He had numerous sets of plaster casts made from them, which he published in the ‘Explanatory Catalogue of the Proof Impressions of the Antique Gems possessed by the Late Prince Poniatowski’ in 1841. It is only now that the gems are appreciated in their own right as very fine examples of neoclassical gem-engraving.


Antique 1700s - 1800s Grand Tour of Europe Souvenirs in the form of plaster cameos. Very impressive small intaglio cameos usually with ancient Greece or Rome thematic. Made in Georgian Era and sold as memorabilia in museums of London at the period. 
Beginning around 1650, young aristocrats embarked upon a rite of passage known as The Grand Tour of Europe, to enrich their education in Art, Architecture, Classic History, Languages, and Classic Culture. With virtually unlimited funds, they traveled throughout the European continent and very specially the Mediterranean area of it, commissioning paintings, purchasing antiques (also forgeries), and taking lessons of diverse kinds usually a mere pretext to enjoy the nice sunny weather and a truly intense social environment. A tour of this nature might include London, Paris, Switzerland, and particularly Italy (Turin, Florence, Pisa, Padua, Bologna and Venice), but sometimes it was happily extended to Greece and coastal cities of the Ottoman Empire. Ample time was spent in Rome to study the classics, then on to Pompeii, the Vesuvius, and Naples and it surroundings. Longer sojourns might include also Germanic and Russian sites like the city of Vienna, Dresden, Munich, Flanders and St Petersburg. By 1840, advancements in rail transportation opened touring to the upper class, even including young women, as we saw in E. M. Forster’s novel "A Room with a View".

Easily transportable keepsakes included intaglios carved from precious stones. Originally used to impress wax seals on letters and documents, the finished impression resembled a cameo. When intaglios became popular with tourists, artisans quickly perfected a method to produce inexpensive copies made from glass paste. Very popular among students with lower wallet resources, the plaster version of the cameos enjoyed a pike of its popularity when museums all across Europe started selling them as souvenirs. The reproduction of fine gemstones cameo treasured by the cultural institutions not only provided income to them but also contributed to the popular recognition the museums and collectors, working as an affordable and easy marketing campaign. Unfortunately many of the plaster cameos never survived to long and having them alive 200 years later is a total act of heroism. 


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