Myth and Power
Relief Images in Precious Stone that Stand Out

27.07.2007 to 25.05.2008

Altes Museum
Altes Museum

Ever since their invention in the 3rd century BC, images carved as raised reliefs from precious stones - called cameos - have been regarded as an epitome of luxury. A cameo was worn as jewellery or displayed in a large metal frame. Where these masterly gems showed pictures of mythical gods and heroes, they often represented encoded messages of claims of superiority and mythical legitimations of power. For this reason, many cameos have survived ancient times, were never buried, were frequently re-worked and re-used.

This is the first exhibition in which the Berlin Collection of Classical Antiquities presents a selection of its cameos - lustrous masterpieces from the period of antiquity to the 19th century otherwise safeguarded in a strongbox. The Art Institute in Chicago has generously lent two previously missing state cameos of Roman emperors. The gemcutter Gerhard Schmidt provides copies of the three largest and most famous cameos of antiquity; the making of these copies is documented in a film available on DVD.