intaglio

Roman Amethyst Intaglio of a Girl Riding a Sea Monster, 1st Century BC/AD

This was possibly made by the master carver Dioscurides, who was the favorite gem carver of the Emperor Augustus.

It is possible that this intaglio portrays one of two possible subjects, the nymph Aura or a Nereid riding on a sea-bull, sea-goat or some other type of horned sea monster. A small seal swims in the ocean behind them.

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That’s not a shadow on the page. It’s evidence that this book was on display at some point in its history. 

We can guess that this book was displayed open to this foldout illustration of a ship on the Elbe river based on the preferential opening, which can be seen in the gutter between the pages and in the textblock in the last photo, and bbased on the sooty pages.

Evidently, the foldout was left folded up, because the soot (perhaps from a fireplace or gas lamps) is only on the surfaces exposed when it is in this state, and the middle of the images is much brighter.

This is also a great example of an intaglio print that was designed to create an illusion of a complete image when folded. It’s nearly seamless–the top left sail didn’t quite match up, but this still would have taken great skill.

-John

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Hessel, Peter. Hertzfliessende Betrachtungen Von Dem Elbe-Strom, Zur Dankbarkeit Gegen Gott Geschöpffet, Darneben Allen Schiff-Leuten Zu Einer Geistlicher Zeit-Vertreibung Vermacht; Auch Einem Jeden Christen in Diesem Angst-Meer Zu Gute Auffgesetzet. Altona: Gedruckt Bey V. De Leeu, in Verlegung Des Autoris, 1675.

Roman Magic Intaglio of a Hecataion, 1st-3rd Century AD

The carving is of an apotropaic, magical subject (as is common on stone amulets from this period): the Hecataion, a statue of Hecate, composed of three figures: the first, facing forward, is the only one that is completely visible. Each pair of arms holds different attributes, all of which are associated with Hecate: she holds two torches in the bottom set of hands, whips in the set of hands, and knives in the top set of hands.

Hecate is a mythological figure related to Artemis, who does not have myths of her own, but is characterized essentially by her functions. Present in Hesiod’s texts, she is independent from the Olympians because she is a direct descendant of the Titans: in the beginning, she was a generally positive figure who spread her kindness to mortals, granting them favors and prosperity. But bit by bit, she acquired another specialty: the world of magic, enchantments (according to a later tradition, Hecate was the mother of the two best known witches in Greek mythology, Circe and Medea), and, above all, the shades: her most frequent attribute is the torch.

During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and in her role as a magician, Hecate presided over crossroads: she is, therefore, venerated and represented as a female statue with three bodies arranged around a column, at whose feet travelers and the faithful could give offerings.

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Greek Hellenistic Large Gold Ring with Nike and Quadriga, 3rd-2nd Century BC

A broad D-section gold hoop extending to a large elliptical plaque with flared edge, rectangular stepped plaque with inset stone panel, intaglio design of winged Nike (Victory) in her chariot bending forward to goad her four draught horses.

The motif of Nike in her four-horse chariot appears on Greek finger rings from at least the 5th century BC. The style of this ring is very similar to one that is now in the Getty Museum, Malibu, and which came from Alexandria. It is believed that the ring, which forms part of a collection of gold jewelry, belonged to a member of the royal court, possibly Queen Arsinoe, so in all likelihood this ring also belonged to a very wealthy and influential individual. The image of a quadriga in the Classical Greek and Hellenistic periods is mostly associated with the gods who were believed to drive their chariots across the heavens and being pulled by various animals that were sacred to them.

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We posted a teaser on instagram of our tour around the Glasgow School of Art etching and silkscreen shops last week but now it’s time for a much more satisfying peek into where the magic happens. 

British art schools certainly take silkscreen more seriously then their US counterparts and always have proper vacuum graphics print tables (often British brand, Kippax) in studios. No messing around with hinges on tables here!

Also, love the guillotine in the washroom situation.