‘Grove Dictionary of Art’, L.P.B. Steffanelli; G.C. Bulgari, ‘Argentieri, Gemari e orafi d’Italia, Rome (1958); R.R.R. Smith, 'Hellenistic Sculpture, 1991, 108-110; B. Andre, 'Laokoon und die Grundung, Roms, 1998.
Post Lot Text
Giuseppe Cerbara (1770-1856)
Giuseppe Cerbara was born in Rome on 15th July 1770. He was the son of Giovanni Battista Cerbara and was one of the best known gem engravers and medallists working in Rome during the 18th and early 19th century. He produced a large number of gem engravings and cameos signed G.C., G. CERBARA, CERBARA or KEPBAPA. His numerous works are well documented by several sets of casts of his work recorded in related catalogues. Giuseppe typically produced cameos with subjects taken from mythology or antiquity and are illustrated in ‘Memorie enciclopediche romane; by G.A. Guatani. His important works, including 44 engraved gems and 15 medals, are housed in the Accademia di S. Luca in Rome. Giuseppe had a younger brother Nicola Cerbara (1796-1869) who was also an accomplished engraver and signed his work N. CERBARA, NIC. C.N.C. According to R. Righette, 'Incisori di Gemme e Cammei in Roma dal Rinascimento all’Ottocento' (1952) a number of cameos exist signed Cerbara making it difficult to distinguish between members of the family.
Laocoon and His Sons
The statue of Laocoon and His Sons is one of the world’s most famous ancient classical sculptures. It depicts the Trojan priest Laocoon who was killed with his sons by the snakes of Poseidon for attempting to make known the secret of the Trojan horse.
The sculpture was discovered and excavated in Rome in 1506. The existence of such a statue was first recorded and described by Pliny the Elder around AD 70, who attributed it to three Greek sculptors from the island of Rhodes. However the example found in Rome is thought to be a later Roman Copy or an original but of a later period.
When the statue was recovered the right arm was missing, and there were various theories as to which position the original arm would have assumed. Although some eminent sculptors including Michelangelo believed that the original arm was bent, the general agreement was that the arm was outstretched. This interpretation remained up to the end of the 19th century. In 1816 the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) tidied up the group and accepted the outstretched arm theory. A cast of the Canova restoration can be seen at the Crawford Art Gallery Cork. It is this version that was probably the inspiration for the Cerbara Cameo.
In 1906 the Archaeologist Ludwig Pollak discovered a Fragment of marble arm in a builder’s yard that was thought to be the missing arm. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Vatican Museum having established that this was the original arm, had it re-sited onto the Laocoon. This arm is in the bent or turned back position.
With thanks to Dr. Claudia Wagner FSA for her assistance