- Museum number
Shell cameo of a charioteer drawn by four horses (Phaeton driving the chariot of the sun), with a scratch-signature. Cut from an oblong panel designed to be set in an ornamental mount of a hair-comb. In a contemporary(?) leather case. The layers of colour in the shell have been exploited to create the effect of a diaphanous cloud in the lower part of the scene.
- Production date
- 1850 (circa)
Length: 13 centimetres (Box)
Length: 10 centimetres (cameo)
Width: 9.80 centimetres (Box)
Width: 5 centimetres (Cameo)
Depth: 4 centimetres (Box)
Depth: 2.50 centimetres (Cameo)
- Curator's comments
- For recent discussion, see C. Gere & J. Rudoe, 'Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World', London, British Museum, 2010, fig. 479 and pp.474-5: 'This cameo is after a marble relief by John Gibson. Alongside inspiration from the antique, a taste developed for subjects from contemporary sculpture and painting. Gibson, who succeeded Thorwaldsen as the leading classical sculptor in Rome, settled in Rome in 1817, studying first with Antonio Canova and then, after Canova’s death, with Thorvaldsen. Gibson had a long connection with Tommaso and Luigi Saulini, and their respective studios were mandatory destinations for the modern Grand Tour. At the 1851 Exhibition in London Tommaso’s display included twelve shell cameos; five of them after Gibson’s sculptures. The subjects included ‘The Hours Bringing the Horses to the Chariot of the Sun’, one of a pair of marble reliefs delivered only the year before in 1850 to Lord Fitzwilliam at Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire; the other relief depicted ‘Phaeton driving the Chariot of the Sun’. Saulini probably saw the reliefs in Gibson’s studio in Rome. Tommaso made cameo versions of both reliefs in onyx and in shell: he sent an onyx version of the Phaeton relief to the 1862 Exhibition in London. But it was as shell cameos that such subjects were most widely disseminated. A large piece like this was perhaps designed for a diadem centre or a comb mount; in hardstone it would have been almost too heavy to wear.'
See also N. Penny, 'The Materials of Sculpture', Yale1993, pp. 18-19 and Fig. 17, where it is noted that ' the cameo has been carved with elegance and skill because of the complex overlapping forms of spoked wheels and legs. The translucency of the lowest areas of relief is ingeniously used to suggest distance and avoid confusion', while the curvature of the shell is ideally adapted to an ornament such as a hair comb.
See also exhibition catalogue, 'Sculpture Victorious. The beauty and power of Victroia sculpture', Tate Britain, London 2015, which included this cameo along with both marble reliefs. The horses in the cameo are very close to those on the Parthenon frieze.
- On display (G47/dc8)
- Exhibition history
2015 23 Feb-18 May, London, Tate Britain, Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention,1837-1901
2014 11 Sep-30 Nov, USA, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention,1837-1901
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Hancocks & Co, 1 Burlington Gardens, London W1X 2HP. Original invoice for ££80 dated 21. 12.1978, described as 'Shell cameo by Saulini'. Note by Charlotte Gere 'Must be Cat. 912 (unmounted, rectangular) as other shell cameos by Saulini have list nos pre Oct 1978, or are V&A transfer items'.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: HG.1098 (masterlist number)