View full screen - View 1 of Lot 15. Italian, 16th century | Cameo with Silenus attended by a Bacchant and a Satyr.

Italian, 16th century | Cameo with Silenus attended by a Bacchant and a Satyr

Italian, 16th century | Cameo with Silenus attended by a Bacchant and a Satyr

Italian, 16th century | Cameo with Silenus attended by a Bacchant and a Satyr

Italian, 16th century

Cameo with Silenus attended by a Bacchant and a Satyr


with a label to the reverse printed: 420

34.4mm., 1.35in.

Overall in very good condition with very minor surface wear and dirt consistent with age. A chip to the terrasse below the seated figure.

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

This highly accomplished cameo epitomises the fascination with Bacchic subjects held by ancient and Renaissance gem engravers alike. Its protagonist is possibly Bacchus, the god of wine, but with his full beard and portly body type, he is more likely to represent the elderly Silenus, his teacher and companion. Following a well-known iconography, Silenus is attended by a Bacchic follower who pours wine into his cup from a wineskin, while a satyr plays the pipes behind. Similar depictions of Silenus being thus entertained are seen in ancient Roman art, such as a relief in the Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, which inspired Renaissance and Baroque versions of the motif, including a drawing for the 'Tazza Farnese' by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609).

In both subject and style, the present cameo is consistent with 16th-century Italian gem engravings based on antique prototypes. A number of similar cameos depicting Bacchic and other mythological scenes within a landscape are found, for example, in the Museo degli Argenti, Florence (Gennaioli, op. cit., nos. 51-54) and in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle (Scarisbrick et al., op. cit., nos. 8 and 20). The gems in Florence in particular show an analogous figural style, with a bead-like rendering of hair that is characteristic of the period.

What distinguishes the present cameo is its superb quality of carving. Its engraver shows a rare sophistication in depicting anatomy, with pronounced musculature in the figures, and an astonishing degree of naturalism in minutely carved details, such as the ram's head on the Bacchant's cloak. The elaborate folds of Silenus' drapery convey the engraver's meticulous study of the antique, and compare, for example, to the drapes in a 16th-century cameo with the Sleeping Hermaphrodite (Gennaioli, op. cit., no. 57). Like many Renaissance cameos, the present gem was probably inspired by an ancient composition, which the engraver emulated with remarkable artistry.


R. Gennaioli, Le gemme dei Medici al Museo degli Argenti: Cammei e Intagli nelle collezioni di Palazzo Pitti, Florence and Milan, 2007; D. Scarisbrick, C. Wagner and J. Boardman, The Beverley Collection of Gems at Alnwick Castle, London and New York, 2017