Chalcedony cameo in gold mount with pearls, emeralds, garnets, sapphires, and sardonyx intaglio
2 7/8 x 2 1/4 in. (7.2 x 5.5. cm)
Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, Christopher C. Grisanti and Suzanne P. Fawbush, Austin B. Chinn, and Katharine R. Brown Gifts, Gifts of Marx Freres, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Mrs. Frank D. Millett, by exchange, and funds from various donors, 2007 (2007.9)
This elegantly wrought pendant brooch displays a finely carved blue Byzantine cameo in a bejeweled gold frame. Carved gems produced in the Byzantine empire were valued throughout the medieval world as diplomatic and religious gifts and as trade goods. This example displays the Virgin and Child enthroned and flanked by busts of two archangels, a miniature version of the decoration of the apse in many Byzantine churches. The frame, with pearls and gemstones on the face and a repoussé image of Christ holding his gospels and raising his right hand in a blessing gesture on the reverse, is similar to frames now in the Kremlin in Moscow that are dated to between the twelfth and the fourteenth century and attributed to Rus', the large region north of the imperial territories that in 988, under Vladimir the Great of Kiev, became a Christian state allied with Constantinople. The cameo was probably sent to Rus', where the frame was made to appropriately house the rare object from the capital. The size and decoration of the pendant suggest that it may have been made for a ranking prelate of the Orthodox Church. The whole is an outstanding manifestation of the complex artistic relationships within the Byzantine sphere.