© Stephane Cardinale - Corbis
When red carpet queen Cate Blanchett recently stepped out for the Joker premiere at the Venice Film Festival, it was her earrings that caught Vogue's attention. The actress wore a pair of striking, hand-carved cameos based on Pensive, a self-portrait by American artist Cindy Sherman. The limited edition earrings were created by LizWorks, a platform that collaborates with some of the world's leading contemporary artists including, in the Cameo collection, Sherman and her fellow artist Catherine Opie. "I love taking traditional things and modernising them to give them a new dimension and new voice," says its New York-based founder Liz Swig.
© Liz Works Pensive earrings by Cindy Sherman; sardonyx cameo earrings in pink gold with pink and lemon quartz. Edition of 50.
The collection which goes on sale for the first time at Dover Street Market in London on Wednesday 2 October is just one sign that the ancient tradition of cameo-making is enjoying renewed appreciation. Less than a mile away from Dover Street Market in St James' stands Wartski, one of London's leading antique jewellery dealers. Multum in Parvo, its stellar exhibition of ancient and antique engraved gems and cameos opens to the public on Tuesday 1 October. These tiny, hand-engraved works of art have been prized by royalty and nobility since ancient times, says director Thomas Holman.
“For many years now, the cameo has been considered rather old-fashioned. They were seen to be the reserve of great aunts and symbols of Victorian kitsch," he explains. "We are however seeing a distinct revival in the appreciation of the cameo, as people better understand the antiquity of this art form and the immense skill required to create them."
For generations, cameos were valued as works of sculpture in miniature, carved in precious and beautiful materials. The patrons of these artists were emperors, kings and princes from ancient Greece to the Renaissance through to the 18th century.
Sophie Jackson at fellow London antique dealer Symbolic and Chase says their appeal lies in the fact that "they are each these little windows of mystery and symbolism. I learn something new each time I research them and they really reward you taking time to examine every detail."
And it is not just an antique jeweller's pursuit. Leading contemporary jewellers have been incorporating antique engraved gems into their designs for some time now. Munich-based Hemmerle discovered a neoclassical cameo depicting King George II who ruled over Great Britain and Ireland in the 18th century as well as being a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire. It incorporated the engraved gems into one of its majestic pendants with a frame of bronze and yellow diamonds.
Marc Auclert, a decorative art historian in Paris, meanwhile revives a broken cameo by creating earrings that use gold to reconstruct the missing half to singularly striking effect,. They at once pay homage to the original engraving and enable it to become something wholly contemporary. Auclert believes it is high time that these miniature masterpieces are appreciated again. They are not, he says 'in fashion' for everyone but 'in taste' for the discerning cognoscenti".
The Cameo collection by Liz Works will be available exclusively at Dover Street Market in London from 2nd – 11th October.
Multum in Parvo is a selling exhibition at Wartski, 60 St James's Street, London W1 from 1st to 7th October.
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