February 18, 2013

Ecstatic Love in a Flash of Carnelian Red

In one of the museums that I frequented to sketch I saw a small cabinet filled with Roman signet rings. These rings, carved with exquisite detail, had all manner of interesting designs and motifs. One of their functions, other than decoration and a pronouncement of social status, was to certify documents by impressing the design into wax. Because the gemstone carnelian does not stick to wax, it was a favorite stone for carving into these rings.

One of these ring seals had an image of a dancing maenad carved in intaglio into a red carnelian. Magnified about twenty-five times or so, she looked similar to my red pastel drawing pictured above. Of course the original carving was much finer than this drawing, but hopefully this drawing catches the exotic spirit of the dancer in a Dionysian reverie. I used my original sketch to make a miniature painting on wood some years ago. In that piece, I also painted her in red to look like the carnelian. I know this oil on wood to be in a private collection now - hopefully giving the owner a little rosy burst of carnelian inspired joy.

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