Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cameo Appearance

By John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections

Having worked at the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers' Museum storage facility for over three years now, there isn’t too much that surprises me when I stumble across it on a shelf. Except for a box of dozens of cameos. And not the cameo pins like most people are familiar with; these are plaster, and used to be glued into the trays in which they’re still contained. I’ve questioned for a few months now “What exactly are these?” They’re not jewelry, but they’re so small they can’t possibly be art to hang on a wall, unless you live in a doll house.

Well, looking under the lid helps.

The label is in Italian, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t spoken a complete sentence in Italian in over 20 years. Thank you Google! Given the translation of the first few words I figured out that this is a sample box of a cameo artists work, and the artist’s name was Giovanni Liberotti. I butchered the translation, even online, of the rest of the label, but it appears that the artist gathered the likenesses of other cameos and recreated them, showing off his own talent. Sort of an early artist’s portfolio I suppose, to help the artist have more work.

For some reason it never occurred to me until today that something like this sample set would have ever existed, but it certainly brings up other questions that the historian in me wishes could be answered. Was this kit brought from Italy by the artist to find work in America? Did someone find it in a dusty shop somewhere in Rome and bring it back as a souvenir? Who was Giovanni Liberotti? (I found a few answers to that question thanks to Google again!) In any event, it’s a very nice set of sample pieces that I can’t wait to work with a little more!

Cameos, Givoanni Liberotti, Plaster, various sizes, N0146.1969.

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