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Italian

Hercules Intaglio: 18th c.; Mount: late 18th c.

RCIN 65832

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Intaglio of the head of Hercules, bearded, in profile to the right. He wears the lion skin tied round his neck. Inscribed in reverse Greek letters behind the neck: ΑΔ. (AD). There are nine similar carnelian intaglios from the same hand recorded in the 1830 Windsor inventory of jewels. All the pieces are after highly popular and frequently copied ancient prototypes and this is a modern copy of a sard intaglio of the Roman Imperial period. The wreath, however, has been omitted and the inscription, which refers to the Greek gem-engraver Admon, added; spurious inscriptions of the name or initials of famous engravers of antiquity were common practice in the 18th century. They are all similarly shaped and have identical late 18th century mounts. The intaglio is from the collection of Consul Joseph Smith of Venice and was acquired by George III with the Consul’s paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and medals in 1762. However, whilst the gem was part of Consul Smith’s collection it is unlikely that it was executed in Venice; engravers capable of such high-quality work were found only in Rome. The group may tentatively be attributed to Anton Pichler (1697-1779) or Carlo Costanzi (1703-81). Both were Roman gem-engravers of great repute; Costanzi was particularly famous for his copies after the antique - he is known to have engraved the head of Antinous several times - ‘and none better’ - according to one contemporary. Text adapted from Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 2008