A very fine agate cameo. Laocoon.
52 x 65 x 35 mm.
The head of the Great Trojan priest is represented frontally, slightly inclined to the right, and is engraved in high relief. The model for this agate cameo is certainly taken from the famous statuary group of Laocoon and his sons, conserved in the Vatican Museums. The face is caught in the dramatic terminal phase of the character: the forehead is slightly wrinkled; eyes open, turned up; the cheekbones protruding in a grimace of intimate suffering, here masterfully veiled; the mouth is half-open and the teeth are visible. The hair is characterized by rebel locks, masterfully sculpted with undercuts, which stretch over the nape (an unusual and interesting detail is the presence of small clusters and grape leaves in the hair, apparently devoid of parallels; to be identified). The mouth is framed by two finely engraved moustaches with rounded ends. The beard is thick and formed by small locks. The neck, in torsion, is massive, expresses power and at the same time an effort out of the ordinary. The subject was particularly appreciated towards the end of the 18th century. For J.J. Winckelmann the Laocoon is among the most beautiful statues of ancient sculpture, demonstrating that the main characteristic of Greek masterpieces is "the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur", related to the position and the expression of the statues. Looking closer to the face of the Laocoon, no sign of deformation emerges from the pain, no expression of anger in the attitude, his mouth is limited to a slight sigh. There is a kind of intrinsic dignity, which makes the endurance of pain sublime. The cameo, of considerable size and great aesthetic impact, was engraved with great artistic skill and extraordinary technical ability. Attractive two-layer agate, with small reddish point-like inclusions on the light layer. The background is characterized by a variegated brown-greenish tones. Mirror polishing. Perfect state of preservation. Unique piece of its kind. UK, private collection. This copy is published in the book "The Art of Gem Engraving. From Alexander the Great to Napoleon III" (Japanese Edition), edited by Diana Scarisbrick, p. 237 n. 297 (sheet of D.S.). For further information: J. Boardman, J. Kagan, C. Wagner, Natter's Museum Britannicum; British collections and collectors of the mid-eighteenth century, p. 70 n. 73: an interesting comparison (for the same subject, laying and rendering in high relief) is the amethyst cameo with bust of Laocoon of three-quarters, high-relief, Marlborough collection, 18th century, "Engraved by Sirletti according to Mariette" ( currently missing, and witnessed by a galvanoplastic metal plate). This comparison is also present in the Tassie repertoire (9475, Marlboriugh n. 359) .; Story-Maskelyne, M.H .: The Marlborough Gems (1870): no. 349; Boardman, J. Scarisbrick, D., Wagner C., E. Zwierlein-Diehl: The Marlborough Gems (2009), n. 359
Late 18th-early 19th century.