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Gorny & Mosch Auction Rediscovers an Old Collecting Field: Engraving Gems and Cameos

Gorny & Mosch Auction to feature dazzling engraving gems and cameos….

AMUGS, that is how the most renowned series of numismatic monographs in Germany published by the German Archaeological Institute is abbreviated. AMUGS stands for ‘Antike Münzen und geschnittene Steine’ (English: Ancient coins and cut stones), which is an interesting choice of title in the light than not a single volume was ever published dealing with the latter. When the title was formulated, in 1969, it referred to an age-old combination: by tradition, every coin cabinet not only housed coins and medals but likewise gems, cameos and seals. That simply may have had something to do with the sizes since both material genres comprise objects of a rather minor format that were stored in the one and the same cabinet as early as Renaissance times. Perhaps the registrars likewise kept in mind that the art of cutting stones on the one hand and the art of cutting dies on the other hand are so closely related to each other that these activities were often performed by the same artists.

Munich auction house Gorny & Mosch, specialized in coins and medals, is now going to auction off a collection comprising 250 cameos, gems and seals in its auction sale 223, which will be of interest not just to the collector of ancient coins: after all, a major part of the items was created in the periods of Baroque and Classicism, and they reflect not just classic topics and figures but contemporary ideas as well.

01157a00A case in point is the virtual gem of the collection, a cameo in white agate, set into a large polished amethyst (1157; estimate: 10.500 euros). The magnificent item presumably depicts Raymond Poincaré who so rigorously disapproved of anything German before, during and after WWI and who became the driving force behind the occupation of the Rhineland. This piece of jewelry, mounted as a brooch in gold and platinum and embellished with brilliants, was designed by one of the most famous jewelers of the 19th century, by Maison Mellerio at Paris that continues until the present day to sell expensive jewelry in glamorous Rue de la Paix and that celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2013.

In ancient tradition, the Renaissance rediscovered the ancient custom to express one’s beliefs in a signet ring bearing some kind of elaborate depiction. Hence, the images cut into the stone, representations of deities, historical figures and saints like Athena and Dionysus, of Socrates and Alexander the Great or Ignatius of Loyola became a manifestation of its wearer’s attitude to life. The portrait of Poincaré on a brooch, too, expressed the political attitude of its wearer – be it a man or a woman -, for everyone plain to see.

The accomplished design of these gorgeous items is in no way inferior to its models of ancient times: let us look for example at a cameo from 16th century-Italy that once was part of the collection of a Russian prince. It depicts a wine-intoxicated Silenus whom a satyr tries to right. The Dionysian setting is framed by further satyrs as well as a billy-goat and a donkey (1178; estimate: 5,000 euros). Generally speaking, the drunken entourage of Dionysus was very popular as subject, as evidenced likewise by a large, oval-shaped cameo made of sardonyx, that was being produced in the second half of the 17th century. The cameo exhibits the bust of a wine-intoxicated Silenus with the facial features of Socrates, an association that goes back as late as Plato who already drew that parallel when he thought about the bald head and the large nose of his mentor (1162; estimate: 6,000 euros).

01215a00To more heroic times takes us a cameo made of bloodstone made in Italy at the end of the 18th century with the depiction of the cuirassed bust of Menelaus. By the way, that subject wasn’t invented all of the blue but refers to a detail of the Pasquino Group so famous with archaeologists: the moment Menelaus spots Hector approaching when he is just recovering the body of dead Patroclus (1215; estimate: 7,000 euros).

Naturally, Gorny & Mosch not only offer the modern pieces but their ancient models as well. That department’s highlight is a large quartz cameo with a depiction of Gorgo, rich in detail and rendered in a highly three-dimensional manner, which probably was worn as an apotropaion once (1090; estimate: 5,000 euros). Of Classical beauty is a Hellenistic intaglio made of red carnelian with the draped bust of Apollo to the left (1101; estimate: 5,000 euros). Presumably everyone would like to know what the white-grey cameo offered under lot no. 1100 meant to its original owner. You see, it features an ear, held by a thumb and an index finger, bearing the writing: ‘Remember!’ (estimate: 4,000 euros).

By the way, these highlights don’t provide an accurate representation of the estimates of all objects. Ancient and modern gemstones alike can be bought for as low a sum as 200 euros. In addition, there are a good number of lots that come with rather interesting prices.

Let’s end this auction preview with an object combining ancient jewelry and numismatics, with a very special necklace: to the torques with its two ends, each bent up to form a hook, two set gold coins of Roman Emperor Philipp II, son of Philippus Arabs, are attached. Parallel pieces to this rare neck ring are housed in such important collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Benaki Museum in Athens (1001; estimate: 65,000 euros).

Have we successfully teased you? Then check out the catalog on the internet at https://www.gmcoinart.de/kataloge. There you also will find auction sale 222 featuring works of Ancient Art. Gorny & Mosch gladly provides you with a printed copy as well. Request your copy at Gorny & Mosch. The next auction sale ‘Ancient Art’ is scheduled for December 2014. Consignments are welcomed until September 2014.


Select Auction Highlights:

1001 Large neck ring with gold coins of Philipp II. Roman, around A. D. 244.
Estimate: 65,000,- euros

1090 Large cameo made of cairngorm quartz with gorgoneion. 2nd cent. B. C. – 1st cent. A. D. 5 x 4.3 x 3 cm. The base is set into a silver plate with a boardlock standing proud on its reverse. With French export license from 2011 and exposé of Professor Dr Bernhard Overbeck. Smaller imperfections at the mounting.
Estimate: 5,000,- euros

1100 Cameo with hand and Greek inscription. Roman, 3rd– 4th cent. A. D. H 1.5 cm. Tiny chips missing.
Estimate: 4,000,- euros

1101 Gem made of carnelian with bust of Apollo. Hellenistic, 2nd cent. B. C. B 1.8 cm. Tiniest chips.
Estimate: 5,000,- euros

1141 Cylinder seal made of black serpentine. Akkadian, 2300-2200 B. C. 3.4 x 2.1 cm. Depiction unwind: variations of a bull with human head fighting a bull-shaped deity. Intact.
Estimate: 1,000,- euros

1144 Cylinder seal made of chalcedony. Old Babylonian, 1400-1100 B. C. H. 3.1 cm. Depiction unwind: inscription in seven columns between two men: Marduk, great lord, the god whose mercy is great, who answers the one praying, who passes fair judgments, who grants life, may your respectful servant be deluged with good health! Tiny bruises.
Estimate: 2,000,- euros

1157 Portrait of a French politician (Raymond Poincaré?). Paris, end of 19th cent. 4.4 x 3.8 x 1.6 cm. White agate layer, embedded in large, cut amethyst. Mounted as brooch in gold and platinum with brilliants. On golden setting signed MELLERIO DITS MELLER PAIX PARIS. Estimate: 10,500 euros. Intact.

1162 Bust of Silenus with facial features of Socrates. Probably Rome, 2nd half 17th cent. 5.1 x 4.1 x ca. 2.2 cm. Large oval-shaped cameo, layered sardonyx. Intact splendid specimen. Estimate: 6,000 euros.

1178 Dionysian scenery with satyrs lifting a wine-intoxicated silenus. Cameo, probably malachite, mounted as brooch in modern gold frame, gold mark at the edge. Presumably Italy, 16th cent. 3.9 x 2.5 cm. Intact.
Estimate: 5,000,- euros.

1184 Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary / Adoration. Northern Italy, around 1500. 4.4 x 3.8 x 0.8 cm (without frame). Cameo, agate, cut on both sides, grey-brown. Decorated gold mounting with two hanging loops. Estimate: 8,000 euros. Intact.

1215 Menelaus with decorative helmet. Presumably Italy, end of 18th cent. 7.5 x 5.5 x 3 cm. Large cameo, bloodstone. Tiny bruise at the lower rim of the bust, extremely fine condition.
Estimate: 7,000,- euros.

Did you know that you can buy direct from Gorny & Mosch? Check out their live store at MA-Shops.com

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