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Cameo - Psyche or Iris

Psyche or Iris

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    2nd half of the 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ronca, James (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Shell cameo

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This shell cameo, made by James Ronca and probably dating from the early 1870s, was presented by the artist to the Museum in 1874. It may represent Psyche, or perhaps Iris. The source could be a painting of Iris by Guy Head (1760-1800), possibly via a medallion of 1867 by Thomas Woolner. James Ronca (1826-after 1908), a carver of cameos in hardstones and shell, produced cameo portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert over a period of thirty years that were mounted in the Royal Victorian Order, the Queen's personal award for service.

While a shell cameo is somewhat easier to cut than a gemstone cameo, the basic principle is the same. The engraver, using chisels, drills and abrasives, works inwards from the surface of the blank, retaining or removing material until the subject slowly emerges. Layers of contrasting colours occurring naturally within the chosen stone or shell are skilfully used to create the image.

Physical description

Figure of Psyche, or perhaps Iris

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


2nd half of the 19th century (made)


Ronca, James (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Shell cameo


Height: 4.8 cm, Width: 3.8 cm

Object history note

Given by the artist in 1874.

Descriptive line

Cameo, shell, Psyche (or perhaps Iris), by James Ronca, English, about 1870-74

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

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1874, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., p. 41






Myths & Legends; Cameo


Sculpture Collection

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