A BYZANTINE AMETHYST CAMEO IN A GOLD AND PEARL MOUNT
MIDDLE BYZANTINE, CIRCA 10TH-11TH CENTURY A.D.
The circular cameo sculpted in high relief with a half-length bust of the bearded and nimbate St. Nikolaos, wearing bishop's robes, holding gospels in his left hand, his right hand raised in benediction, framed by an identifying Greek inscription, OA[GIOS] NIKOLAOS, the gold mount with a circular bezel, framed by pearls threaded on wire and secured by loops adorned with clusters of granulation, the flanged edge fringed in granulation, a ring on the reverse with four sets of two perforations for attachment
15/16 in. (2.3 cm.) diameter
German Private Collection, acquired prior to 1998.
For a sapphire cameo of St. Nikolaos in the Louvre, slightly later than the present example, see no. 201 in Durand, et al., Byzance, L'art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises. The gold frame ornamented with pearls and granulation is closely paralleled in similarly-framed enamel medallions that were made in imperial workshops in Constantinople and mounted on a variety of objects such as book covers, votive crowns and chalices. See for example the silver gilt and sardonyx chalice in the Procuratoria di San Marco, no. 31 in Evans and Wixom, The Glory of Byzantium, Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261, and the book cover in the Bibloteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice, no. 41, op. cit.