In the last second

Antique Gem after François Lemoyne, The Liberation of Andromeda, c. 1780

Threatening, with its mouth open, the monster approaches the bound beauty. Everything is agitated, the waves are surging, her light garment is moving in the storm, only a few seconds separate her from certain death. But rescue is at hand! From the left, sword drawn, Perseus comes flying to defeat the monster and save Andromeda. Andromeda was the daughter of the Ethiopian king Cepheus. Her mother boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs of the Neireids - an outrage that Poseidon could not let go unpunished. As punishment, he sent sea monsters and a devastating flood. An oracle prophesied the end of the plague if Andromeda, bound to a rock, were sacrificed to the sea monster. The unfortunate lady was freed from this predicament by the hero Perseus. He slew the hideous monster and married the king's daughter. This brooch of the late 18th century presents the liberation of Andromeda in the medium of the shell gem. In this, the depiction follows a famous and widely used 18th-century pictorial invention, a 1723 painting by François Lemoyne, now in the ->Wallace Collection in London, inv. no. P417. The painting in the French king's collection was often copied in the medium of copperplate engraving. We reproduce an engraving by Laurent Cars made as early as 1728, which was widely circulated throughout Europe. It is laterally reversed to the painting, which is due to the printing technique. Obviously it was the mixture of eroticism and drama and the salvation through love that made numerous artists of the 18th century return to this model again and again. Well known are, for example, the -> porcelain figures with the motif created at Fürstenberg in the 1770s. The gem at hand here will have been made in the years around 1780. The gem cutter, who cut the light pink shell from the engraving, has arranged the scene appropriately for the oval format and captured all the drama of the original. At the same time, the medium of the shell fits the subject wonderfully. A simple framing of gold turns the small work of art into a brooch.

For centuries, the possession of cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections of decorative arts and chambers of curiosities, from the Green Vault in Dresden and the treasury of Rudolf II to large private collections such as that of Baron von Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique seal stones and gems, which were able to represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety, as they were also an expression of a humanistic education. However, the art of gem-cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been handed down from generation to generation. Today the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only large-scale training centre for gem-cutters in Italy. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carving north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and cut stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys to enjoy.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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