Help us bring life to art, and art to lives. Make a donation.

Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Paper knife

Firm of Castellani
Possibly after a design by Michelangelo Caetani, Duke of Sermoneta (1804–1882)
ca. 1863
Italian, Rome
Gold, enamel
10 1/4 x 2 3/4 in. (26 x 7 cm)
Metalwork-Gold and Platinum
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1993
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 556
The reputation of the Castellanis––Fortunato Pio (1794–1865) and his sons Alessandro (1823–1883) and Augusto (1829–1914)––rests principally on Classical Revival jewelry they produced from about 1863, when Alessandro established a branch of the firm in Naples, until his death. Earlier, however, the firm had explored a range of styles, and it is to this period that the letter opener, with its eclectic mixture of Early Christian, classical, and medieval motifs, probably belongs. The symmetrical design, identical on both sides of the blade, features roundels and carefully proportioned geometric compartments characteristic of the work of the duke of Sermoneta, a friend of Alessandro's, who prepared similar designs for the firm in 1859. The angels on each side of the handle recall figures on a later medieval jewel that Alessandro evidently saw in England in 1861–62, of which he is known to have made five copies.

The angels are enameled en ronde bosse, a technique practiced in the early sixteenth century; the remainder of the letter opener is cloisonné enamel, with the cloisons formed of gold filigree wire. Although constructed of nineteen individual sections, an effect of seamless unity is achieve by the harmony of design and color and by the impeccable craftsmanship.

[Clare Le Corbeiller, 1993]
Marking: [1] interlaced Cs (soldered twice on flat edge of crossguard);
[2] interlaced Cs, a dot above and below, in filigree-bordered circle (applied disc on one side of angels' support)

Zigzag assay marks occur on one voluted panel and one section of the grip.

Most of the individual pieces are scratched with an x to indicate placement.
[ Wartski and Co. , London, until 1993; sold to MMA ]
Related Objects

Brooch in the form of an owl head

Date: ca. 1860 Medium: Gold, agate Accession: 2014.713.10 On view in:Gallery 556

Archaeological revival necklace

Date: ca. 1880 Medium: Gold, glass Accession: 2016.711.2 On view in:Not on view

Archeological-revival cravat pin

Date: ca. 1880 Medium: Gold and steel Accession: 2015.408 On view in:Not on view

Archeological-revival hat pin

Date: ca. 1880 Medium: Gold and steel Accession: 2015.406 On view in:Not on view

Byzantine-revival pendant in the form of an oil lamp

Date: ca. 1870 Medium: Gold; glass; fabric Accession: 2015.407 On view in:Not on view