Necklace with cameo of Veronica's Veil
Firm of Castellani
This object and the group to which it belongs (see also 2014.713.1–.10) reflect the keen interest in historical styles in nineteenth-century Europe. Artists and designers looked to various artistic periods for forms and motifs. There was also an interest in reproducing works of art from earlier epochs with historical accuracy—an approach that is particularly evident in the taste for so-called archaeological jewelry (jewelry based on excavated examples from antiquity), which reached its zenith in the middle of the century.
The jewelry made during this period encompassed Etruscan, ancient Roman, early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval styles. The firm of Castellani in Rome both pioneered and dominated the production of archaeological jewelry. Founded by Fortunato Pio Castellani in 1814, the company was run by three generations of the family before closing in 1927. Castellani jewelry achieved enormous popularity in the highest circles of European society, and its success encouraged many jewelers to work in a similar hisotiricizing vein, including Carlo Giuliano and his son Arthur, who established a successful firm in London in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
The fashion for works of art that evoked antiquity ensured the popularity of cameos. Carved from hardstones such as onyx, sardonyx, and agate, cameos depicting subjects from ancient Greece or Rome or portraits executed in silhouette were often mounted in gold as jewelry. The most proficient cameo carvers, such as Benedetto Pistrucci and Luigi Saulini, produced works of remarkable technical skill. Their cameos were set in specially designed mounts by jewelers such as the Castellani, resulting in some of the finest decorative works of art of the nineteenth century.