Definitions

cameo

cameo

[kam-ee-oh]
cameo, small relief carving, usually on striated precious or semiprecious stones or on shell. The design, often a portrait head, is commonly cut in the light-colored vein, and the dark one is left as the background. Glass of two colors in layers may be cameo-cut; a famous Roman example is the Portland vase. The art originated in Asia as a decoration on the reverse side of seals. The Greeks were noted for their exquisite designs and cutting on jewelry and on decorations for jewel caskets, vases, cups, and candelabra. The Romans were adept cutters, and Rome remains a center of experts in this art. The art was revived during the Renaissance, and cameo jewelry was a vogue of the Victorian era.

“The Rape of Europa,” cameo in gold and enamel frame, 16th–17th century; in the elipsis

Hard or precious stone, glass, ceramic, or shell carved in relief above the surface. It is the opposite of intaglio. Surviving cameos date from the early Sumerian period (circa 3100 BC) to the decline of Roman civilization, and from the Renaissance to the Neoclassical period of the 18th century. They were carved with mythological scenes and portraits, and many commemorated specific persons. In the 18th–19th century, cameos adorned diadems, belts, brooches, and bracelets.

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