- Museum number
Intaglio; glass imitating sard; oblong; Priam begging Hector's body; signed.
- Production date
Length: 2.70 centimetres
Width: 2.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- 'Catalogue of 100 Impressions from Gems engraved by Nathaniel Marchant', London 1792, no. LV, 'Priam at the feet of Achillles supplicating the redemption of Hector's body. Achilles is represented sitting; he turns away his face from Priam, yet suffers him to kiss his hand, and bathe it with his tears. The two remaining fugures are Briseis and Alcimus, or Automedon. See Hom. IL. lib. xxiv. From part of a basso-rilievo in the Villa Borghese.'
Text from Seidmann 1987: no 98. Fig. 103.
The gem was commissioned by the Revd Francis Henry Egerton, later 8th Earl of Bridgewater, a fine classical scholar, and is discussed in a letter from Marchant to Egerton of 7 October 1784 (British Library Add. MS 3043 c 12, f.56; see Life (Biographical Introduction to Seidmann 1987) pp.13-14.
'As to the figure of Achilles being too large in proportion of the other figures I do not know I have endeavoured to keep the same proportions as in the Basso Relievo as much as I could possibly do - I believe it will be found in Homer that he particularly speaks of Achilles' great Stature and his being seen above all the rest in the Army. The figure behind must be reduced according to the rules of Perspective besides which the Heroes [?] of the subject are shown to better advantage. I think Winkleman shou'd have paid more observations to Antiquity himself than to have rely'd so much upon the opinion of others - I have taken no liberty with the original but have copied the Drapery as near as possible. We are to consider it is [a] nightscene and a melancolly [?] one and besides which that breadth of Drapery behind Achilles sets his figure off to great advantage ....To return to Briseis I remember that you thought it might perhaps be better if one of the Breasts were shown I consulted Mr Hamilton and several others whose knowledge and love for antiquity is not a little they all agreed that th[is?] fine Basso Rilievo (sic) required no liberty taken with it and that the antients did every thing with great circumspection'.
Giovanni Gherardo de Rossi, a partisan of Pichler's , who criticizes Marchant elsewhere for his minute detail, included a sulphur from this gem in his selection for Count Franchi di Pont as no. LVI, remarking 'Fu atteso con ansiera in Roma questo intaglio, su cui l'Artisa lavoro lungo tempo, e che predicavasi per suo Capo d'Opera'. On the relief see Jones, H. Stuart, ed, A Catalogue of the Ancient Sculptures preserved in the Municipal Collections of Rome: The Sculptures of the Museo Capitolino (Oxford 1912) pp. 77-81. Wedgwood had this gem copied in cameo, see Reilly and Savage, The Dictionary of Wedgwood (Woodbridge 1980).
Amastini, Collection of 105 Impressions after Marchant's gems by the Amastini workshop, Rome, undated (c.1788) B V/9.
Raspe, R.E., A Descriptive Catalogue of Ancient and Modern Gems .... by James Tassie, 9302, describes the gems in a long paragraph, part of which is identical with Marchant's description quoted here, and was no doubt provided by the artist. The editor concludes with the words 'A very fine engraving, and a most beautiful stone'.
Cades, Impront Gemmarie, collection of impressions by the Cades workshop, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Rome, 66/409. George Lippold, Gemmen und Kameen des Altertums und der Neuzeit,142/2.
A larger version on brown sard, 28x23, mounted in a gold ring, is at Belton House, National Trust, formerly the seat of the Earls of Brownlow. The Royal Academy owns a box of fifty-two plaster impressions after Marchant's gems, presented by the Brownlow Trustees in 1927.
Text from Raspe 1791, no. 9302:
'Sardonyx. Mr. F. Egerton. Priam kneeling at the feet of Achilles, and interceding with him to be permitted to redeem the body of Hector. Achilles is represented sitting; he turns his face from Priam, and yet suffers him to kiss his hand and bathe it with his tears. The two remaining figures are Briseis and Alcimus or Automedon. See Hom. Il. lib. xxiv. From part of a basso-relievo in the Villa Borghese at Rome, which is delineated in Winckelman's "Monumenti antichi inediti". MARCHANT, F. A very fine engraving, and a most beautiful stone.'
- On display (G47/dc3)
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number