Lover's Delight on Naxos

First class Lagestone cameo with Ariadne & Bacchus in gold, sig. Vergè, around 1830

Even (or especially?) royal children are not always lucky in love. Ariadne, for example, the daughter of the king of Crete, also granddaughter of the sun god and half-sister of the Minotaur, only found her fulfillment at the second attempt. Her first relationship with Theseus, an Athenian, brought her no luck: she helped him outwit the Minotaur with the proverbial Ariadne's thread, but in return he left her on the island of Naxos. Only Dionysus found her there, unhappily asleep, and fell in love with her. He took her as his wife and gave her a crown of jewels, which rose into the sky as a constellation after her death; Ariadne herself escorted Dionysus from Hades to Olympus, where she became a goddess. The piece of jewellery here, a brooch, but really more of a collector's item, a work of art in its own right, shows the two lovers. Ariadne sits beside the youthful wine god on the beach of Naxos. At her feet rests the panther of Dionysus on which Ariadne had ridden to meet him. The thyrsos staff in his left also clearly distinguishes Dionysus. The scene is cut from a layered stone, an agate, in first-rate detail and classical beauty. The layers of the stone are of different colors and once crisscrossed the agate in a slight wave. The artist who created this relief from the hard mineral followed the waves and cut the stone so that the figures stand out white against the pale purple ground. The panther, in turn, formed from the next layer, is again slightly purple. The cameo is signed: "Vergè". It was created in Rome. Antonio Vergè (*1786) worked here and is attested to have worked in the Piazza di Spagna between 1808 and 1850 [1]. His workshop, in which his nephew Giuseppe (*1818) also worked from 1839, supplied agate gemstones to the leading goldsmiths of the time, including Fortunato Pio Castellani in the 1830s and 1840s [2]. Vergè's design of the scene shows him to be at the height of classical artistic taste in Rome. A very similar scene cut in carnelian was also in the collection of Prince Poniatowski; a sketch by Giovanni Calandrelli from the 1820s has been preserved in the Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities and is reproduced here [3]. The large scene is set in high-carat gold. A frame with black and white enamel in classical forms surrounds the scene; a second, powerful band with plant engravings closes the work to the outside. The formality of the framing and the signature lead us to date the piece to around 1830. We were able to acquire it from the collection of an art historian living in Rome. References 1] Costantino Bulgari: Argentieri, Gemmari e Orafi d'Italia. Notizie storiche e raccolta dei loro contrassegni con la riproduzione grafica dei punzoni individuali e dei punzoni di stato, Rome 1958-74, here vol. 2, p. 529. 2] Cf. Lucia Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli: Jewels with Cameos and Intaglios. The Castellani and Roman Gem Carvers, in: Susan Weber Soros/Stefani Walker (eds.): Castallani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry, New Haven/London 2004, pp. 103-127, here p. 105, p. 113. 3] Cf. L'antica maniera. Zeichnungen und Gemmen des Giovanni Calandrelli in der Antikensammlung Berlin, edited by Gertrud Platz-Horster, Cologne 2005, plate 12, p. 97, VI 18.

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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.