This remarkable jewel is superlative for the quality of its execution. Beautifully carved, it represents a chained captive, his bald head indicating that he is of Oriental origin, probably Ottoman or North African. The very particular rose coloured chalcedony with yellowish hue, seen at the left edge of the parapet, compares very closely with works by the celebrated hardstone carver Giovanni Ambrogio Miseroni, who worked alongside his brother, the Imperial stone-cutter Ottavio Miseroni. The stone, the facial features and the composition strongly compare with Miseroni's Statuette of a Reclining Venus with Cupid in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (inv. no. KK 1730). Note the manner in which Venus' arm crosses her body to connect with Cupid, just as the Captive reaches with his right hand across his body to an attribute held in his left hand. Both the Captive and Venus share the same full lips, fine nose, and incised eyes. Compare also with the Cover - again in the same red and yellow chalcedony - from the collection of Louis XIV, sold in these rooms on 6 July 2011, lot 6. The way in which the figures emerge from the stone, flanked by flowing drapery, compares well with the present cameo. The gold mount and chain resemble those from a small scent flask from the same circle and also in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (inv. no. KK 1752).
The iconography of the shackled prisoner is evident both in Classical and in Renaissance art. Compare, for example, with Giulio Romano's Chained prisoners, also shackled at the neck, from the Palazzo Te in Mantua (circa 1527-1528). The likely identity of the subject as an Ottoman Turk is given credence by the fact that the Turks were one of Catholic Europe's feared enemies, with the Battle of Lepanto having taken place in 1571. The subject was very current in the early 17th century, with Pietro Tacca representing four chained Moors or North Africans for his Monument to Ferdinand I of Tuscany in Livorno (1626), which commemorated the Grand Duke's victories over the Ottomans.
P. Rainer, Splendour and Power: Imperial Treasures from Vienna, exh. cat. Wiener Kunstkammer, Vienna; Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim; Kunstmuseum of Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 198-203, nos 56-57; D. Scarisbrick, Portrait Jewels, London, 2011, p.33