I have a slight fascination with intaglios. When I first saw framed intaglios I thought they were cameos. 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” (pronounced with a silent “g”). Intaglios and cameos can be made in any material, even latex or plastic, 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.
Plaster intaglios were marketed in Italy during the 18th and 19th centuries as souvenirs for wealthy American and English tourist as keepsakes of their European Grand Tour holidays. During the Grand Tour, before photography, wealthy travelers would commission artists to carve intaglio medallions of a piece of art or knowledge they had seen or learned during their passage as keepsakes. The wealthy Americans displayed the intaglios prominently in their homes and guests were often intrigued by the beauty of the art. The scenes invoked enlightening conversations during dinner parties and gatherings.
So, have you seen framed intaglios and thought they were cameos? I have a project I am working on and I hope my client will let me place framed intaglios above her bed. Do you love the intaglios as much as I do? I would love to hear what you think!