Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mastery of Design: A Commesso Cameo of Queen Victoria, 1851

This and all related images courtesy of The Victoria & Albert Museum

This beautiful brooch is set with a commesso (a type of cameo further decorated with enameled gold and jewels developed in Florence during the Italian Renaissance) portrait of Queen Victoria. The shell cameo is mounted in gold, enameled and set with table-cut and cabochon emeralds and rose-cut diamonds.

The shell cameo is further embellished with enameled gold, diamonds and emeralds, and the gold frame is decorated with enameled roses of Lancaster and York. On the reverse, the cameo is signed : “Paul Lebas / Graveur / 1851 / Paris.” The gold mount is struck with the maker's mark of Felix Dafrique with a French export mark.

The design of the cameo is based on a portrait of Her Majesty in Garter Robes by Thomas Sully, painted 1838. It is believed that the French jeweler Félix Dafrique showed this brooch at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. This assumption is based on the fact that he received a Prize Medal for his “polychromic cameos” as well as the date of creation.

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