Tempus Vincit Omnia

Mannerist cameo of Chronos in reddish alabaster as pendant, 16th century.

Chronos was already known as the personification of time in pre-Socratic times. Even the ancient Greeks, however, gradually merged him with the Titan Kronos - actually two independent figures of the mythological world, yet the two bore such similar names that they were confused with each other again and again, sometimes even seen as the same figure. Thus, at the latest since the Renaissance, the image of Chronos with the sickle, once an attribute of the Titan Kronos, has become widespread. From this developed both the ideas of the Grim Reaper and "Father Time" in the English-speaking world. Also in this representation we see Chronos with the sickle or a scythe. Its placement behind the head of the bearded old man is on the one hand due to the cut-out and format of the engraving - and yet it is so characteristic that it leads us to conclude that it is an artistic model. For another well-known representation of Chronos in precisely this pose can be found in the "Sala dei Giganti", the Hall of the Giants, in the Palazzo del Te near Mantua, Italy. In monumental size, a fresco there tells of the Gigantomachy, the battle of the gods of ancient myth against the giants. In this work, the fusion of Chronos with the Titan Kronos appears irrevocably. The fresco was painted between 1532-35 by Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael and an important representative of Italian Mannerism. But it is not only the pose of Chronos in Romano's monumental work that is reminiscent of our gem: the preparatory drawing for the fresco in particular (now kept in the Getty Museum under inv. no. 94.GA.32, see last illustration) also makes us think of the materiality of our carving. Executed in veined reddish alabaster, it recalls the glazing technique in brownish ink that Romano used for his drawing. But even more pronounced here are the elongated, mannerist features of Chronos, which emphasize both his wrinkled forehead and the length of his beard. The head stands out vividly against the crescent and the background; the natural veining of the stone lends it particular depth. I wonder if an admirer of Giulio Romano's work once sat under the dome of the Palazzo del Te and sketched the Chronos in order to later cut it in alabaster, or if he even had the preliminary drawing in mind himself? Stylistically, at any rate, the cameo suggests that it too was painted in the 16th century, probably only a little later than Romano's fresco in Mantua. It was acquired by its previous owner in Parma - 60 kilometers southwest of Mantua, even in times without trains and cars only a day's journey on foot. The golden setting of this rare work of art was created only recently. The gem is set in a simple frame of yellow gold, to which a necklace can be attached thanks to an eyelet. In keeping with the spirit of the sitter, the small work of art, which has been excellently preserved over the centuries, seems to want to remind us of a Latin motto: Tempus Vincit Omnia, time conquers all.

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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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