14 MIDI.EVAL GEM ENGRAVING.
taste ; certainly such a manner was foreign to the Roman hand, even in
the lowest stages of the Decline. Imperial portraits, even after the
execution had become quite barbarous, are still successful in
preserving a certain rude expression of dignity and repose. This stone
is not set as a ring, but in an octagonal silver seal, in shape far
from inelegant. The legend on the setting—prive svi e poy CONV—"
Prive snis et puis connu," is well cut in bold Lombardic letters, like
that on the ring last mentioned. This seal, found at Childerley,
Suffolk, in 1861, was ceded by the late Mr. Litchfield of Cambridge to
the Prince of Wales.
the above described engravings distinguish themselves at the very first
glance from the innumerable examples of really antique intagli adapted
to mediaeval usages The latter, whether the finest Greek or the rudest
colonial Roman, have an air of antiquity about them which cannot be
mistaken, in addition to the characteristic shaping of the stone
itself. For all antique gems (excepting the sard, the red jasper, and
the sardonyx, when cut transversely by the older Greeks) have always a
surface more or less convex, and more especially so in the case of the
three precious kinds we have been considering, but which in all these
is perfectly plane. The work also betrays in every line the heavy touch
of the engraver accustomed to cut seals in metal.
is only a matter of wonder why the Italians, at least in the great
trading cities, Pisa, Venice, Genoa, did not sooner attain to
proficiency in gem-engraving ; in constant intercourse as they were
with the natives of Alexandria and of the Syrian ports, to say nothing
of their artistic relations with the Byzantine Greeks, in all which
regions the art was extensively practised, the more especially amongst
the Mohammedans, in the cutting of Cufic, and later of Persian
calligraphy with the accompanying arabesques and floral decorations.
This is the more singular as the Italians are known to have learnt many
arts from the Arabians, especially those established in Spain, such as
the manufacture of ornamental glass, enameled wares or Majolica, and
damascening metal. Many Italian words relating to the arts betray the
sources whence the latter were derived, being pure Arabic, such as zecca, iazza, gala, perhaps
also cameo, &c. It is not however unlikely that some amongst the
ruder talismans, on which Hebrew letters appear, were