This intriguing cameo is a rare example of an overtly erotic subject attributable to the Miseroni, the most prestigious family of hardstone carvers around 1600. The sleeping nude's pose and anatomy immediately recall the chalcedony Venus and Cupid in a shell attributed to Giovanni Ambrogio Miseroni, which was sold in these rooms on 6 July 2011 as lot 6. Stylistically, however, the cameo finds a closer comparison in the work of Giovanni Ambrogio's brother, Ottavio, who led the branch of the family workshop at Rudolf II's court in Prague. Compare, in particular, the broad facial type, summarily carved hands, and heavy limbs in Ottavio's chalcedony statuette of Mary Magdalene in the Kunsthistorisches Museum (inv. no. 1723). While the explicit rendering of the woman's pubis in the present cameo does not seem to appear in other surviving Miseroni works, it is by no means unique in 16th-century hardstone carving; see a shell cameo with Jupiter, Venus and Cupid in the Museo degli Argenti, Florence (Gennaioli, op. cit., p. 198, no. 109). The possibility that the present cameo could have formed part of Rudolf II's Kunstkammer is tantalising.
R. Distelberger, Die Kunst des Steinschnitts: Prunkgefässe, Kameen und Commessi aus der Kunstkammer, exh. cat. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2002, pp. 261-262, no. 145; R. Gennaioli, Le gemme dei Medici al Museo degli Argenti, Cammei e Intagli nelle collezioni di Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 2007, pp. 188 and 198; P. Rainer, Splendour & Power: Imperial Treasures from Vienna, exh. cat. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2011, pp. 60-73