Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ancient Cameos

A cameo is a small scene or figure carved in relief. This modern Italian word, meaning "to engrave, " is thought to have come from the ancient Hebrew/Arabic word "kamea", meaning "charm" or "amulet."

Folklore relates cameos' mystic capacity to attract health and good fortune. The enduring popularity of the cameo attests to its delicate power to beguile generations of wearers and viewers alike.

The word cameo specifically describes a relief image raised higher than its background and carved from one material. In contrast, if the artist carves down into the stone to hollow out a recessed image, the resulting work is called an "intaglio". Intaglios and cameos can be made in any material, but the most popular are of stone, coral, shell, glass and fine metals.

Originally intaglios had a practical as well as decorative purpose. When brushed with ink or wax, the intaglio can be used as a seal or identifying stamp to mark a letter or document.