Cameo, Wedgwood, lilac jasper with blue dip and white reliefs, c.1778-85

 

This cameo consists of lilac Jasper with blue dip and white reliefs, mounted in an ormolu frame. The applied relief depicts the infant Bacchus (Dionysus) surrounded by three draped female attendants, in a scene generally known as The Education of Bacchus. The first attendant is leading a panther on which Bacchus sits, supported by another attendant. As she steadies the child with one hand, she dangles a bunch of grapes above him. To the left, a third attendant sits in the bough of a tree. Beneath her is an upturned krater, a vessel used for diluting wine in ancient Greece.

The depiction of an infant Bacchus riding on a panther dates back to antiquity, and 18th-century connoisseurs of the classical world would have been familiar with this portrayal from their knowledge of antique gemstones, cameos, intaglios and carvings.

The cameo has a lapidary polished edge, an indication of quality and a feature of a number of Wedgwood's Jasper cameos and medallions.

The style of frame with its oval outer border of banded laurel branches encircling an inner border of corvetto balls, corresponds with gilt metal frames made at Matthew Boulton's Soho Works in Birmingham. Boulton & Fothergill were important customers of the Wedgwood factory, buying cameos for mounting in metal from as early as 1772.

Unmarked.

Condition: Excellent - no chips, cracks or restoration to the cameo. The frame is lacking two metal teeth on the reverse only.

Dimensions: 6 cm across, including the frame

Ref. For Wedgwood Jasper plaques in the Wedgwood Museum fitted with similar ormolu frames by Matthew Boulton, c.1775-80, see Accession Numbers 5131, 5229 and 4935.

The Genius of Wedgwood, Hilary Young (V&A Publications, 1995).

Wedgwood, Wolf Mankowitz (Spring Books, 1966).

 

     
     
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