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Marcus Tullius Cicero

mounted in an antique gold ring.

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a fine high relief cameo showing extraordinary three dimensionality, carved from a single piece of caramel coloured sardonyx, depicting the statesman, lawyer and philosopher of ancient Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106BC-43BC), the face carved in a milky brown striation of the stone above a translucent golden yellow layer.

Mounted in a yellow gold finger ring in the classical taste, contemporary with the gem.

Possibly Milan, c.1820

The subject of the cameo compares to impression number 10891, described as Cicero, in ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of a General Collection of Ancient and Modern Engraved Gems, Cameos and Intaglios, Taken from the Most Celebrated Cabinets in Europe; and Cast in Coloured Pastes, White Enamel, and Sulphur’ (Raspe Tassie, 1791). It is likely that this portrait type was well known in the eighteenth century and was based on the marble bust in the Capitoline Museum in Rome (formerly in the Barberini and Albani collections).

The ambition of this beautiful gem points to one of the prominent engraving studios of the early nineteenth century working in Italy. The distinctive stone from which the cameo has been carved is very much in keeping with the material used by gem engravers based in Milan, such as Antonio Berini (1770-1861). Comparable gems by Berini show similarly ambitious three dimensionality as well as bravura carving.