Old Master Sculpture & Early Jewels

Old Master Sculpture & Early Jewels

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 62. Giovanni Pichler (1734-1791)  | Italian, Rome, before 1787 | Cameo with Apollo as Archer (Apollo Saettante).

Giovanni Pichler (1734-1791) | Italian, Rome, before 1787 | Cameo with Apollo as Archer (Apollo Saettante)

Lot Closed

December 7, 04:12 PM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 GBP

Lot Details


Giovanni Pichler (1734-1791)

Italian, Rome, before 1787

Cameo with Apollo as Archer (Apollo Saettante)

signed Pichler in Greek letters

chalcedony, within a contemporary brooch mount

the mount inscribed and dated: SW to EG / 1787

cameo: 19 by 23mm.,⅝ by⅞in.

22 by 27mm.,⅞ by 1in.

Probably Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815);

by whom gifted to his fiancé Lady Elizabeth Grey (1765-1846), daughter of Charles Grey, later 1st Earl Grey (1729-1807);

English collection, circa 1980-2021

Catalogo d'Impronti cavati da Gemme incise dal Cav.r Giovanni Pichler, 1787, no. 23 ("D'Invenzione");
R. E. Raspe and W. Tassie, A Descriptive Catalogue of a General Collection of Ancient and Modern Engraved Gems Cameos as well as Intaglios, London, 1791, no. 15194 (impression);
L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, La collezione Paoletti: Stampi in vetro per impronte di intagli e cammei, Rome, 2012, pp. 42-43, no. 224, inv. no. MR 26858 (glass mould);
H. Rollet, Die drei Meister der Gemmoglyptik, Antonio, Giovanni und Luigi Pichler, Vienna, 1874, p. 25, no. 24; 
C. G. Trube, 'Die Emkendorfer Sammlung der Abdrücke von Geschnittenen Steinen Giovanni Pichlers als Vorlage für Grisaillen von Giuseppe Anselmo Pellicia', in Nordelbingen. Beiträge zur Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte, 64, 1995, pp. 50-51, figs 12-13;
This sublimely beautiful cameo is recorded in the 1787 listing of gems by Giovanni Pichler (op. cit.), and described in Paoletti as depicting Apollo shooting an arrow. The cameo appears to be identical to the Paoletti mould and Tassie impression. The high quality of the carving is consistent with Giovanni Pichler's oeuvre.

The cameo compares stylistically and in quality to a cameo with a Centaur and bacchante in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (inv. no. K-1813), which is likewise signed Pichler in Greek letters and is given to Giovanni Pichler (1734-1791). For the drapery compare with the cameo with a young woman holding a torch and vase by Giovanni Pichler in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 39.22.42). 

Giovanni Pichler was born in Naples and trained by his father Antonio Pichler in the art of gem engraving in Rome. In 1769 he was appointed gem engraver to Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. Pichler's fame rapidly increased and he became a favourite of Grand Tourists. He also trained a number of the most famous engravers of the next generation including Filippo Rega and Antonio Berini. Upon his death in 1791 his workshop was inherited by his half brother Luigi Pichler. He went on to work for the Habsburg Imperial family in Vienna and so impressed the French court jeweller François-Régnault Nitot that the latter tried to persuade him to move to Paris. Luigi received many distinctions later in life including a diploma from the Academy of St Luke and membership of the Academy in Venice, as well as, in 1839, Knight's Cross of the Order of St Gregory the Great and, in 1842, of the Order of St Sylvester.

The Whitbread Provenance

The cameo is inscribed SW to EG / 1787. The initials almost certainly refer to the brewer Samuel Whitbread who married Lady Elizabeth Grey in 1787. Whitbread was educated at Eton College, Christchurch, Oxford, and St John's College, Cambridge. He went on the Grand Tour between 1785-1786 with his tutor, the historian William Coxe. Whitbread met Lord Bulkeley in Naples in January 1786, and was described by the latter as 'a very pleasing young man'. The 10th Earl of Pembroke met Whitbread in Rome, referring to him as 'the young rich brewer Whitbread' and, rather scathingly, observing that his tutor Coxe would lend '[n]either modesty or bon ton' to his pupil. Whitbread returned to England in 1786. He presumably gifted this beautiful cameo by Pichler to his young fiancé the following year as part of their courtship.

Samuel Whitbread later became a politician who campaigned for education reforms and the abolition of slavery. Elizabeth Grey's brother was Charles Grey, later 2nd Earl Grey, who served as Prime Minister between 1830-1834, and after whom the famous tea is named.