Pendant with the Battle of Dogali
The sapphire intaglio in this pendant commemorates the Italian defeat at the Battle of Dogali, in Ethiopia in 1887. Five hundred soldiers died in the attempt to extend the Italian empire, and the event inspired a number of songs, poems and novels, as well as this jewel.
Girardet, who carved the intaglio, had a close relationship with Castellani, carving cameos and gems for him for a weekly wage.
Made by Augusto Castellani (1829-1914); intaglio by Giorgio Antonio Girardet (1829-92)
Gold, enamel, rubies, pearls and sapphire intaglio; with brooch fitting
Bequeathed by Henry L. Florence
This modern plaster cast shows a positive version of the scene on the intaglio. Intaglios are made by incising or engraving a gemstone to make a hollow image, as opposed to a cameo where the image is raised.
This took great skill. While making an intaglio, the gem-cutter would periodically embed the work in wax and make a plaster cast to check on progress.