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Southern Italian, circa 1220-1230 | An Important Cameo with a Walking Lion

Property from a Private European Collection



Southern Italian, circa 1220-1230 | An Important Cameo with a Walking Lion

Southern Italian, circa 1220-1230 | An Important Cameo with a Walking Lion

Property from a Private European Collection

Southern Italian, circa 1220-1230

An Important Cameo with a Walking Lion


15 by 24mm., ¾ by 1⅜in.

Overall the condition of the cameo is very good with minor dirt and wear to the surface consistent with age. There is a small loss to the upper edge by the mount hole. There is a further small loss to the tail. Dirt to some of the crevices. 

Please note that Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.

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.

Ogden-Smith family, London 1930s;

ACR Auctions Munich, 30 October 2014, lot 118;

where acquired by the present owner, a distinguished private collector

This beautiful and rare cameo of a walking lion is one of a small group of gems associated with the court of Frederick II Hohenstaufen. Frederick II was the grandson of two of Europe's greatest rulers: Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and Roger II King of Sicily. Raised in Palermo, Frederick was fluent in six languages: Arabic, Latin, Greek, German, French and vernacular Sicilian; he probably also read Hebrew. He founded the University of Naples and cultivated an intellectual atmosphere at his court at Palermo, inviting Jewish scholars to translate texts and corresponding with foreign Muslim dignitaries. Frederick II was regarded by his detractors as 'the Antichrist', the 'limb of the devil' and the 'Punisher of the World', but has been remembered to posterity as 'Stupor Mundi': 'Wonder of the World'. Many scholars have characterised his reign as a 13th-century proto-Renaissance.

Frederick II's reign saw revived interest in gem engraving. A number of cameos dating to the first half of the 13th century have been linked to Frederick's court at Palermo. These surviving glyptics underscore Frederick's wider concern for the classical past. As Dirk Booms and Peter Higgs have argued, 'classical influence is visible in … cameos and gems that were produced at Frederick's court, again with such skill that until a few decades ago most of them were identified as being actually Roman in date. A whole array of classical and mythological scenes... which must have been known to the court and the craftsmen from ancient examples, was used and copied, and new scenes created, sometimes depicting Christian scenes' (op. cit., p. 262). The most famous of these gems is the cameo with Noah and his family entering the ark which was formerly in the collection of Piero the Gouty and his son Lorenzo the Magnificent and is now in the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1890,0901.15).

The present cameo with a walking lion compares with another circa 1230 example which was sold in these rooms on July 2020, lot 16. See also the example set into the King David Statuette in the Historisches Museum, Basel (published in Kahsnitz, op. cit., vol. 5, p. 499, fig. 378). Another similar lion cameo from the same period is in the Hermitage, St Petersburg (also illustrated in Kahsnitz, op. cit., vol. 5, p. 500, fig. 379a). A close comparison is found in another cameo with a lion (facing right) in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples, published by Giuliano (op. cit., p. 151, fig. 38). Note also the cameo with a liopart in the Suermondt Ludwig Museum in Aix-la-Chapelle (Giuliano, op. cit., p. 178, fig. 42).


R. Kahsnitz, Die Zeit der Staufer, Stuttgart, 1977, vol. 5., pp. 499-500, figs. 378-379a; J. D. Draper, 'Cameo Appearances,' The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, March 8–January 29, 2005, pp. 18-19, no. 30; A. Giuliano (ed.), Studi Normani e Federiciani, Rome, 2003