The Gem collection of the MANN

By Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The
Gem collection of the MANN boasts more than 2000 ancient and modern
specimen. They all prove the level of refinement achieved
in glyptics and also express the collecting strategy that animated
the Italian and European courts since the Renaissance. Even the popes
couldn't avoid being captivated by such refined and coveted objects:
these gems were purchased, exchanged, donated and became a model to
imitate.

Augustus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Farnese Gems

The gems were part of the Farnese collection inherited by Charles III of Bourbon from his mother, and transferred to Naples from 1736, first into the Royal Palace then to Capodimonte and finally into the Royal Bourbon Museum, now called the Archaeological Museum.

The collection was first started in Parma in the mid-seventeenth century, and later expanded through acquisitions and donations of pre-existing assemblages, belonging to Lorenzo de 'Medici, to the Venetian pope Paolo Barbo and to the antiquarian and librarian of the Farnese family Fulvio Orsini.

This collecton included both masterpieces of the ancient glyptics, some of which are still marked by the engraver's mark, such as Athenion or Dioskourides, and modern specimens inspired by ancient themes and subjects, which were selected and revisited according to the taste and the will of self-representation of the commissioner.

Perseus with the head of Medusa signed Dioskourides (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Carved carnelian, signed by Dioskourides.
Gemme Farnese, inv. 26057.

Herakles fighting with the Nemean lion (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Hercules fighting the nemean lion. Chalcedony agate cameo.
Gemme Farnese inv. 26004.

The punishment of Dirce (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The punishment of Dirce. Chalcedony agate cameo.
Gemme Farnese, inv. 25897.

Europa and the bull (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Europe on the bull. Chalcedony agate.

Gemme Farnese, inv. 26971.

Bust of Asclepius (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Bust of Asclepius. Carving on diasper.
Gemme Farnese, inv. 26081.

Apollo, Olympus and Marsyas (c.d. Sigillum Neronis) (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Lorenzo de' Medici's gems

First
started by Cosimo the Elder, the collection was later expanded by his
nephew Lorenzo, who added unique specimens of remarkable
craftsmanship and fame. He also acquired the collection of Francesco
Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, and the one belonging to Cardinal Pietro
Barbo, later to become Pope Paul II. The latter collection was
donated to the Medici by Sixtus IV in 1471.

Apollo, Marsyas and Olympus, carving on carnelian, inv. 26051.
The gem was mentioned in the collection of Cosimo the Elder, who had commissioned the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti a specially devised gold frame.
Ghiberti engraved the inscription on the metal NERO CLAUDIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS P. MAX. TR. P. IMP. PP, a series of titles taken from a coin of Nero, which gave the carnelian the name "seal of Nero".

The contest between Athena and Poseidon for the conquest of Attica (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Athena and Poseidon competing for dominion over Attica

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25837.

Three Erotes (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Three Cupids doing some woodworking

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25837.. inv. 25853

Dyonisus on a charriot pulled by Psychai (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Dionysus travelling in a chariot pulled by Psychai

Sardonyx agate cameo, attributed to Sostratos. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25840

LAV.R.MED
Lorenzo de' Medici used to mark the most precious objects in his collection with this ex gemmis inscription.

Icarus and Daedalus, Pasiphae, and Artemis (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Icarus, Daedalus, Pasiphae, and Artemis

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25838

Aphrodite carried on the waves by a goat (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Aphrodite riding on a goat over waves

Chalcedony agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25845

Childhood of Dyonisus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Dionysus as a child

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25833

Satyr with the child Dyonisus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Satyr and young Dionysus

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25880

Hermaphrodite, Eros and Aphrodite (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Hermaphroditus, Eros and Aphrodite

Sardonyx agate cameo, attributed to Protarchos. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25891

Hermes and Marsyas (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Hermes and Marsyas

Sardonyx agate cameo. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 25957

Nereid on hippocampus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Nereid riding an hippocampus

Carving on amethyst. Lorenzo de' Medici's gems, inv. 26091

Pittacus (Bust of Epicurus) (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Orsini's collection of gems

Fulvio Orsini (1528-1600) was the librarian and trusted antique dealer of the Farnese family, a numismatic expert and a pioneering researcher on the iconography of illustrious ancient men. He made a remarkable collection of carved gemstones, which included about 400 specimens, that he passed on to Odoardo Farnese at his death, along with other collections of coins, medals and busts.

Zeus fighting against the Giants (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Zeus battling the Giants

Onyx agate cameo, signed by Athenion. Orsini's gems, inv. 25848.

Signed by Athenion, the cameo was probably made in the artistic milieu of Pergamon between the 3rd and the 2nd centuries BC.
The scene represents Zeus on quadriga striking down the Giants with his lighting, and could refer to the victories of the Attalid dynasty on the Galatians.

Alexander the Great (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Alexander the Great

Chalcedony agate cameo. Orsini's gems, inv. 25988

Artemis (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Artemis

Carving on amethyst, signed by Apollonios. Orsini's gems, inv. 26070

Apollonios' signature. He an engraver under Augustus.

Antoninus Pius (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Barbo's collection of gems

The Venetian Pietro Barbo, cardinal of San Marco and then pope since 1464 with the name of Paul II, was a passionate collector of precious stones, which he gathered in the Roman palace of San Marco, later called Palazzo Venezia. As early as 1457, his collection included 821 pieces – both carvings and cameos. After his death in 1471, his collection passed down into the papal collections and, in part, merged into those of the Medici, as a gift of Sixtus IV.

Dancing Maenad (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Dancing menad

Chalcedony agate cameo, attributed to Sostratos. Barbo's gems, inv. 25914

Dancing Maenad (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Dancing menad

Chalcedony agate cameo, attributed to Sostratos. Barbo's gems, , inv. 25934

Dyonisus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Dionysus

Sardonyx agate cameo. Barbo's gems, inv. 25908

Satyr and Maenad (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Satyr and menad

Sardonyx agate cameo. Barbo's gems, inv. 25869

Nereid on hippocampus (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Nereid riding an hippocampus

Sardonyx agate cameo. Barbo's gems, inv.25979

Leda and the swan (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Leda and the swan

Onyx agate cameo. Barbo's gems, inv. 25967

Credits: Story

Photo credits Giorgio Albano
Photographic services MANN

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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