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Cameo with a Hebrew inscription
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Cameo with a Hebrew inscription

XIII century. Agate.
Room 079B

This extremely interesting piece is one of the thirteen preserved cameos that originally came from at least two different vessels stolen in 1918 (I-1405 and I-1407). It shows a crowned and bearded figure upon a curule seat or throne, his face turned and his arm extended to the viewer’s right, with the hand open in a gesture of invitation. The sovereign depicted may be a personage linked to the history of Israel, perhaps King Ahasuerus or the king who is mentioned in Proverbs 20.2 or Proverbs 29.14, who dispels all evil with his gaze while seated on his throne on the Day of Judgement. The image is in any case a beneficent one.

The figure is accompanied by a Hebrew inscription that is somewhat complex to translate since it admits various interpretations, though it is clear that it refers to a king whose clemency has earned him this memorial in stone. Angulo gave its meaning as: “Merciful / a memorial / of stone / king / in his days”. There remains the possibility that the inscription might be later, perhaps added to an earlier cameo in the 15th or 16th century. Cantera, a Hebrew scholar whose translation of the inscription was published in Angulo’s catalogue in 1944, revised it in 1956, proposing a possible symbolic meaning for the text. Arbeteta pointed out that the figure’s position suggests that the cameo might have formed one of a pair, which could in this case have been representations of King Asahuerus and his bride Esther.

To judge by its appearance, the stolen vessel from which this cameo came was made from an assembly of different pieces of agate with an enamelled gold mount. In the historic photograph of one of the vessels taken by Juan Laurent in about 1879, Juan Laurent y Minier, Vase à perfums en agate, montures d’argent doré avec camées. Hacia 1879. HF 835-26. this cameo can be seen on the left of the broad central band where the cameos were set.

Technical data

Related artworks

Agate, Chalcedony, Cowry, Vitreous paste, Early Finales del siglo XVI - XVII century
Case for a missing globular vessel
Leather, Wood, Metal, Fabric, 1690 - 1711
Missing globular vessel
Albumen on photographic paper, Ca. 1879
Laurent y Minier, Juan
Inventory number
Cameo with a Hebrew inscription
XIII century
Height: 30 mm; Width: 24 mm; Weight: 5.24 g; Grosor: 5 mm
Tesoro del Delfín
Royal Collection

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, Catálogo de las Alhajas del Delfín, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1989 (ed.rev), pp. 84-85.

Arbeteta Mira, Letizia, El tesoro del Delfín: alhajas de Felipe V recibidas por herencia de su padre Luis, Gran Delfín de Francia, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 204,205.

Arbeteta, Leticia, 'Tesoro del delfín. Una herencia de la familia real francesa' En:, Los tesoros ocultos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 248-276.

Arbeteta, L. Azcue, L., El Tesoro del Delfín, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2018.

Azcue Brea, Leticia, Rarezas y lujo para deslumbrar: el Tesoro del Delfín., Ars & Renovatio.Centro de Estudios de Arte del Renacimiento, 7, 2019, pp. 504-519.

Tortajada, Sonia, Sobre la identificacion de materiales pétreos el Tesoro del Delfín, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXXVII, 2019-2021, pp. 53-68 [62,63].

Inscriptions +

[Caracteres Hebraicos] [Traduccion: ´Misericordioso / un recuerdo / de piedra / rey / en sus días]
Incised. Inside

Location +

Room 079B (On Display)

Update date: 30-04-2022 | Registry created on 11-02-2016

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