Museum complex


Author – Grand Duchess Maria Fedorovna (?)
Russia, St.Petersburg
Caption on the neck: MARIA F. 1790
Colored and milk glass; carving
Diameter – 7,3 cm
Receipt: from the First Proletarian museum, 1923
Showcase 2

The original cameo of three-layer onyx was presented by Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna to Empress Catherine II on the day of her namesake – November 24, 1790 (kept in the Hermitage).

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Catherine was a passionate collector of engraved gems. An engraved gem is a semi-precious stone with an image carved on it. Empress Catherine II being an owner of one of the largest collections of carved gems came with the idea of creating copies of these miniature masterpieces. To this end in a special room of the Hermitage the Carver-medallist K. von Leberecht and chemist-artist G. Koenig invited by Catherine began to make pastes of engraved gems or, as they were called then – Pats. A special glass mass was used both for casts of cameos and for creating relief portraits-medallions.
Under the influence of crowned mother-in-law Maria Fyodorovna also became interest in the "cameo art". Under the supervision of K. von Leberecht and G. Koenig the Grand Duchess studied drawing, techniques of metal castings, making of glass pastes and work with wax. Maria Feodorovna tried herself in stone carving. She also became greatly interested in casting of portraits with subsequent carving in double glass, colored in base (blue or "cornelian") and white at top – milk.
Profile portraits of her husband and children were made of milk glass. It became a passion in the 1780s because it reminded and was associated with a love of white porcelain. The Glass is an exceptionally diverse in its capabilities material. It was used in both casting and carving techniques. Fragile and yet very durable, when cold it gave in to a cutter same as a natural stone. Gypsum casts of cameos permitted to repeatedly redo glass castings.
Cameo portraits created by the Grand Duchess most often were rimmed in gilded bronze and served as gifts to beloved and dear ones.