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The Agony in the Garden

  • Object:

    Cameo

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gemstone

  • Museum number:

    7535-1861

  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 9, shelf 3

The art of engraving gemstones can be traced back to ancient Greece in the 8th century BC and earlier. Techniques passed down to the Egyptians and then to the Romans. There were major revivals of interest in engraved gems in Europe during the Byantine era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and again in the 18th and 19th centuries. At each stage cameos and intaglios, these skillful carvings on a minute scale, were much prized and collected, sometimes as symbols of power mounted in jewelled settings, sometimes as small objects for private devotion or enjoyment. This cameo conveys in miniature a scene from the Passion of Christ found in the engravings of such South German artists as Martin Schongauer (about 1430-91), and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528); see V&A inventory numbers E.755-1940 and E.704-1940. On the eve of the Crucifixion Christ has gone to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, accompanied by three of his disciples. While the disciples sleep, Christ kneels in prayer, against a distant view of the towers of Jerusalem. The chalice of bitter wine offered to him by God, and representing the coming suffering of his death on the Cross, appears in front of him.

Physical description

Vertical oval cameo. Milky white and dull, mottled, translucent pink layered agate. Depicting the Agony in the Garden. Christ kneels with clasped hands at the top facing left among rocks, a chalice in front of him. Below him the three apostles are shown sleeping, two on the right and one on the left. In the distance a group of buildings represents Jerusalem. Set in a simple gold mount with loop for suspension.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)

Date

ca. 1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Engraved gemstone

Dimensions

Height: 41 mm, Width: 25 mm

Object history note

Recorded as 'Bought from Sampson, London'.

Historical context note

This cameo conveys in miniature a scene from the Passion of Christ found in the engravings of such south German artists as Martin Schongauer (about 1430-91), and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), see V&A inventory numbers E.755-1940 and E.704-1940.

Descriptive line

Cameo depicting The Agony in the Garden, oval layered agate in gold setting; Germany, about 1500

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 5
Tait, H. Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum, Vol I, The Jewels, London 1986, p. 226
King, C. W. Handbook of Engraved Gems. London, 1885, p. 136
Machell Cox, E., Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue of Engraved Gems. London, Typescript, 1935, Part 2, Section 1, p.113.

Materials

Gold; Layered agate; Gemstone; Microquartz

Techniques

Gem-engraving

Categories

Jewellery; Christianity; Sculpture; Religion

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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