Lot 187
  • 187

SARDONYX CAMEO PENDANT, ATTRIBUTED TO FILIPPO REGA, EARLY 19TH CENTURY

Estimate
10,000 - 15,000 GBP
Sold
31,250 GBP
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Description

  • attributed to Filippo Rega
  • gold, jasper
Set with an oval sardonyx cameo depicting Joachim Murat, unsigned, within a plain mount.

Literature

Cf.: Diana Scarisbrick et al, The Art of Gem Engraving, from Alexander the Great to Napoleon III, Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan, 2008, pg. 99, no. 82, for a comparable cameo portrait of Murat by Rega, dated circa 1810.

Catalogue Note

Joachim Murat (1767-1815) was among the most flamboyant and brave military figures of the Napoleonic era. Known as 'the Dandy King', Murat was famed for his style and charisma as well as for his military prowess.

Originally from a modest background in the Southwest of France, he made a vital contribution to the success of the Republican forces under Napoléon Bonaparte in the battle of 13 Vendémiaire in 1795. His part in this important victory took him to the heart of the new regime, and over the following years he fought under Bonaparte on the French campaigns in Italy and Egypt.

His marriage to Napoléon's sister Caroline Bonaparte in 1800 consolidated his close links with Napoléon and brought him a series of titles, including Prince of the Empire in 1805, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves in 1886 and finally, succeeding Napoleon's brother Joseph as King of Naples in 1808.

Also based in Naples around this time was Filippo Rega (1761-1833). A cameo engraver and medallist, Rega had attended the Academy of San Luca in Rome, and trained under the renowned stone carver Giovanni Pichler. Rega's abilities had long been recognised by both the local elite and the Bonaparte family, from whom he had been commissioned to carve a cameo portrait of Caroline as a present to her brother Napoléon. 

By the time Murat came to power in Naples, he had already been appointed director of the Mint of Naples, as well as two of Naples' important artistic establishments: The School of Gem Engraving, and the Pietra Dura workshops. It is very likely that the present cameo was carved by Rega in these opening years of the 19th century, when both men were based in Naples, and Murat was at the very height of his power. The lives and fortunes of the engraver and his subject, however, diverged in the turbulent years that followed.

Murat struggled to maintain his rule over Naples as Napoleon's momentum faltered. After Napoleon's final defeat in 1815 Murat fled to Corsica, where he was captured by the forces of Ferdinand IV, his successor as King of Naples. Sentenced to death, he is reported to have kissed a cameo of his wife Caroline, possibly also by Rega, before issuing his final instructions to the firing squad - 'straight to the heart, but spare the face.'

Rega, meanwhile, managed to continue his work in Naples and maintain his good relations with the restored ruling family. He was appointed Director of the Royal Mint by Ferdinand II and Knight of Francis I in 1829, and was employed in the decoration of the Palatine Chapel at the Royal Palace of Palermo, which occupied him until his death in 1833.  

Additional examples of Rega's work can be found in the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe.

With thanks to Diana Scarisbrick for her assistance in researching this collection.
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