On August 30, 2012 I posted a blog on the rediscovery of a very striking and important ancient Roman amethyst gem engraved with the image of Victory writing on a shield, dating to about 50 BC to AD 25. I also mentioned that the gem was in the collection of Sir Francis Cook by 1903. The posting paid off! Last week I received an email from Dr. Erika Zwierlein-Diehl, a professor at the University of Bonn, Germany, telling me that she had seen my blog and immediately recognized our gem. Dr. Diehl has traced the provenance of the ROM’s gem to the much earlier collections of Paulus Praun and Sibylle Mertens-Schaaffhausen.
Paulus Praun (1548-1616) was a merchant from Nuremberg who often travelled to Bologna for business and also to search the antique markets for treasures. He amassed a huge collection of paintings, drawings, prints, coins, sculpture, engraved gems and oddities of nature. After he died, his collection remained in the family until it was sold in the late 18th century.
The gem was next seen in the hands of…..
From her youth, Sibylle Mertens-Schaaffhausen (1797-1857) was interested in archaeology. When she bought a large house in Bonn, the top floor was reserved for her collection of art and antiquities including engraved gems. Her house became a meeting place for the intellectual elite of Bonn, where she hosted a famous salon with professors, artists, and antiquarians in attendance. Besides being an intellectual and an avid collector, she was also a gifted musician. Her collection was eventually auctioned in London in 1859. (In addition to this provenance, Dr. Diehl also sent me a photograph of the cast of the ROM’s gem made for the auction in 1859.)
By 1903 the gem was in the possession of Sir Francis Cook and by 1925 it was in the ROM waiting to be rediscovered in 2012. The ROM’s very fine gem now has a very distinguished pedigree.