Bona Sforza (1493–1557), Queen of Poland

Maker: Cameo by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio (Italian, Parma or Verona ca. 1500/1505–1565 Krakow (?))

Date: ca. 1530–40, and 19th century

Culture: Polish, Cracow and French

Medium: Sardonyx, with inlaid gold and silver details; mounted in 19th century as a pendant in gold, with enamel, pearl and ruby

Dimensions: Overall: 2 13/16 x 1 3/4 in. (7.2 x 4.4 cm); Visible cameo (confirmed): 31 x 22 mm

Classification: Metalwork-Gold and Platinum

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.869

Description

Exceptionally for the Renaissance, this is a signed cameo, bearing the signature of Gian Giacomo Caraglio, who was born in Verona and later worked in Venice and then Cracow and who was best known as a printmaker. 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 (see detail; for Medusa, see also fig. 59) is inset on 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.

[James D. Draper, 2008]

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