Giovanni (Gian) Jacopo (Giacomo) Caraglio (Italian, ca. 1500/1505–1565)
Sardonyx with inlaid gold and silver details; mounted in the 19th century as a pendant in gold with enamel, pearl, and ruby
1 1/4 x 7/8 in. (31 x 22 mm)
Signed: JACOBVS VERON; inscribed: BONA SPHOR REGINA POLONIAE
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.869)
Exceptionally for the Renaissance, this is a signed cameo, bearing the signature of Gian Giacomo Caraglio. Best known as a printmaker, Caraglio who was born in Vienna and later worked in Venice and then Kraków. The subject of this cameo, Bona Sforza, daughter of the duke of Milan, married Sigismund I, king of Poland, in 1518. At Sigismund's death in 1548, she returned to Italy, where she died in 1557.
The cameo is inlaid with gold that enhances details of Bona's chain and hairnet, and a silver Medusa's head is inset in her breast, in the same spirit of jewelry within jewelry. The only other gem signed by Caraglio, an agate similarly bedecked with gold representing Barbara Radziwill, Bona's successor as queen of Poland, is in the Münzkabinett, Munich. The dainty frame, although dated 1554 on the reverse, is a nineteenth-century invention.