Property from the Collection of Dr. Susan Weber
GOLD, CHALCEDONY AND ENAMEL BROOCH
Featuring an onyx and agate cameo of Medusa measuring approximately 63.0 x 54.0 x 4.0 mm, framed within an egg pattern surround applied with white enamel and gold ropework, reverse fitted with a pendant loop on top and pendant hook on bottom, attributed to Benedetto Pistrucci; circa 1840-1850. With a fitted Wartski box.
In very good condition, with minor tarnish and some light tarnish to the reverse side of the mounting. Mounting tests as 18 karat gold. The cameo in excellent condition, the Medusa head carved into a band of white, the background a band of light brownish grey, the back a band of onyx; a few very small areas of abrasion to the chalcedony can be seen under 10x magnification, including on the tip of Medusa's nose, the top of one wing, and a few strands of hair. Frame dimensions approximately 2½ x 2⅛ inches. Gross weight approximately 32 dwts.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Illustrations in the catalogue may not be actual size. Prospective purchasers are reminded that, unless the catalogue description specifically states that a stone is natural, we have assumed that some form of treatment may have been used and that such treatment may not be permanent. Our presale estimates reflect this assumption.Certificates of Authenticity: Various manufacturers may not issue certificates of authenticity upon request. Sotheby's is not under an obligation to furnish the purchaser with a certificate of authenticity from the manufacturer at any time. Unless the requirements for a rescission of the sale under the Terms of Guarantee are satisfied, the failure of a manufacturer to issue a certificate will not constitute grounds to rescind the sale. Gemological Certificates and Reports: References in the catalogue descriptions to certificates or reports issued by gemological laboratories are provided only for the information of bidders, and Sotheby's does not guarantee and accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, terms or information contained in such certificates or reports. Please also note that laboratories may differ in their assessment of a gemstone (including its origin and presence, type and extent of treatments) and their certificates or reports may contain different results.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
James David Draper, Cameo Appearances, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006, page 44.
The gorgon Medusa has been portrayed in various ways since classical antiquity, sometimes grizzly and frightening, other times sullen and somber. This cameo of Medusa, carved in the 19th century, is one of the more sophisticated, sensitively rendered versions. The acclaimed gem engraver, medallist, and coin engraver Benedetto Pistrucci (1783-1855) may be attributed as the most plausible author when comparing the jasper cameo signed by Pistrucci in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (see Cameo Appearances, James David Draper, New York, 2008, p. 44 no. 95). Although Pistrucci proclaimed he never copied other works, always insisting on creating his own versions, it seems this Medusa owes much to the ancient Roman marble mask known today as the Rondanini Medusa, now in the Glypothek in Munich.
The Rondanini Medusa is a Roman or Hellenistic copy of a 5th to late 4th century B.C. classical sculpture, thought to be one of the earliest representations of the “beautiful gorgoneion” type in Greek art. The famed sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) created his masterpiece of Perseus with the slain head of Medusa, also having used the Rondanini head as a reference for his Medusa. Today, the face of Medusa is the icon for Versace, chosen because of its deep symbolism. Medusa made people fall in love with her and there was no turning back. However according to Greek myth, Perseus was tasked with slaying her, and after having done so, kept her head for its power to turn onlookers into stone, until he gifted it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield as an apotropaic, or evil-averting device. Medusa is usually represented with snake-like locks of hair because, as one version of the story goes, Athena then turned her beautiful hair into venomous snakes. The cameo offered here also portrays her with wings, which refer to Pegasus, the winged horse, who sprung from her head once she was slain.
In 2018, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York launched an exhibition curated by Kiki Karoglou entitled “Dangerous Beauty: Medusa in Classical Art” and it is most fitting to quote this observation: “The connection between beauty and horror, embodied above all in the figure of Medusa, outlived antiquity, fascinating and inspiring artists through the centuries. Medusa became the archetypical femme fatale, a conflation of femininity, erotic desire, violence, and death. Along with the beautiful Scylla, she foreshadows the conceit of the seductive but threatening female that emerges in the late nineteenth century in reaction to women's empowerment.”