Wednesday 23 November 2022

Ancient Cameos

Eagle Cameo, Roman 27 B.C. Two-layered onyx
A cameo is a small scene or figure carved in relief. This modern Italian word, meaning "to engrave" is thought to have come from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic word "kamea", meaning "charm" or "amulet." Folklore relates to a cameo's power to attract health and good fortune. Artistic cameos were made in Greece as early as the 3rd century BC. The word cameo specifically describes a relief image raised higher than its background and carved from one material. In contrast, when the artist carves down into the stone to hollow out a recessed image, it is called "intaglio".
Cameo portrait of Augustus AD 14-20

The world’s largest cameo (cameo Tiberius)
Intaglios and cameos can be made in any material, but the most popular are stone, coral, shell, glass and fine metals. Intaglios had a practical as well as decorative purpose. When brushed with ink or wax, the intaglio can be used as a seal to mark a letter or document.

Sardonyx cameo depicting Pan.

Athena and Poseidon. Cameo. Onyx 1c BC

August and Triton, after 27 AD

'Gemma Augustea', a Roman cameo in an open-work gold frame, glorifying Emperor Augustus and his successor Tiberius.