Engraved Gems and the Classical Tradition A new exhibition in the Upper Library at Christ Church, Oxford.
Although gems are modest in size, gem engraving was a major art in antiquity. From the Renaissance on Greek and Roman intaglios and cameos were collected, observed and copied. Scholars could learn about the appearance of gem subjects through publications, often initiated by their almost obsessive collectors, but also through the expanding production of impressions and casts of gems in a variety of materials. This exhibition will give examples of a wide range of these, from sealing wax to glass paste. It will also show a number of original gems. Books on engraved gems of the 17th to 19th centuries from the Christ Church Library are illustrated with impressions, electrotypes and casts from Oxford’s Beazley Archive, and intaglios and cameos from private collections.
A highlight in the exhibition is a sardonyx from the collection of the Earl of Carlisle. The cameo was engraved by Alexander Cesati (1510-64), and shows Cupid taming a lion in the presence of two nymphs. Continue reading