Even the most celebrated carvers did not scruple to borrow freely from authoritative sources. Nathaniel Marchant had already treated this composition in an intaglio carved for Lavinia, Countess Spencer (private collection, United Kingdom), but Pistrucci added an original flourish of drapery. One might understandably interpret the subject as Leda and the swan had not Marchant identified it as the nymph in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso who accepts tablets bearing the names of deceased worthies from a fleet of swans (hence the disklike object proffered by the swan). Castellani’s delicate “archaeological-style” setting perfectly frames the curvilinear design.
Signature: Cameo: signed in exergue: PISTRUCCI. Mount: signed on back with interlaced C's (maker's mark for Castellani)
Augusto Castellani (his sale, P. and P. Santamaria, Rome, lot 46) ; [ sale, Christie's, Geneva , Magnificent Jewels, May 14, 1987, no. 385 ] ; [ Wartski and Co. , London ] ; Judith S. Novak , New York (until 2006) ; [ her sale, Sotheby's, New York , December 6, 2006, lot 16; sold to MMA ]