Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Object of Day, Museum Edition: The Townshend Turquoise Medusa, 1800-1869

Bas Relief Carved Cameo in Turquoise Depicting a Female Figure, possible Medusa.
The Collection of the Reverend  Chauncy Hare Townshend
Previously owned by H.P. Hope
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Among the gorgeous collection of jewels amassed by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend is this turquoise and gold jewel made into a cameo of a female head, probably Medusa. The stone was carved between 1800 and 1869. In 1869, it was set into a ring for purposes of display.

Turquoise has been mined for centuries, first by the Ancient Egyptians in Sinai over 6000 years ago. The stone’s sky-blue color comes from copper. Its softness makes it perfect for carving.

Many of the jewels in the Reverend’s collection, including this stone, were originally owned by Henry Philip Hope, a brother of the novelist and antiquary Thomas Hope. H. P. Hope formed a famous collection of diamonds and precious which once included the Hope blue diamond, now in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

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