New Publications

Natter's Museum Britannicum
British Gem Collections and Collectors of the Mid-Eighteenth Century
by Sir John Boardman, Julia Kagen and Claudia Wagner
with contributions by Catherine Phillips

The German gem-engraver, medallist, and amateur scholar Lorenz Natter (1705- 1763), was so impressed by the size and quality of the collections of ancient and later engraved gems which he found in Britain that he proposed the publication of an extraordinarily ambitious catalogue – Museum Britannicum – which would present engravings and descriptions of the most important pieces. He made considerable progress to this end, producing several hundred drawings, but in time he decided to abandon the near completed project in the light of the apparent lack of interest shown in Britain. Only one of the intended plates in its final form ever appeared, in a catalogue which he published separately for Lord Bessborough’s collection. On Natter’s death the single copy of his magnum opus vanished mysteriously, presumed lost forever.

All hope of recovering Natter’s unpublished papers seemed vain, and their very existence had come to be doubted. Yet they were to be found more than two hundred years after his death, in Spring 1975, when the classical scholar and renowned expert in gems, Oleg Neverov, chanced upon them at the bottom of a pile of papers in the archives of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Neverov and his colleague Julia Kagan carried out the initial research on the Hermitage manuscripts and produced the first published account of this archival treasure.

The present volume builds upon their earlier work to produce the first comprehensive publication of Museum Britannicum, offering full discussion in English and presenting Natter’s drawings and comments alongside modern information on the gems that can be identified and located through fresh research. This book is the result of a ten-year collaboration between scholars on the Beazley Archive gems research programme at Oxford’s Classical Art Research Centre and the State Hermitage Museum. It fulfills Natter’s vision for the Museum Britannicum – albeit two and a half centuries late – to the benefit of art historians, cultural historians, curators, and gem-lovers of today.

 

The Beverley Collection of Gems at Alnwick Castle
by Diana Scarisbrick, Claudia Wagner, and Sir John Boardman

Alnwick Castle, ancestral seat of the Earls of Northumberland – the House of Percy – was built as a border fortress against the Scots in the twelfth century, if not earlier. Substantially enlarged in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and remaining in Percy family hands to this day, it stands now as a prime example of robust stone defensive architecture. Much visited and admired for its impressive exterior and interior, this dramatic stronghold and stately home is the setting for one of the most distinguished assemblages of gems in Great Britain still in private hands. The Beverley Collection reflects the longstanding interest of the English nobility in both accumulating and commissioning gemstones. The Collection was begun by the First Duchess of Northumberland in the early eighteenth century; but the greater part of it was made later in the century by Algernon Percy, First Earl of Beverley, during a tour of Europe while in the company of his mentor and tutor, the writer Louis Dutens. Their success in France and Italy was such that it incited the jealousy of the Empress Catherine of Russia, herself a passionate collector. The range of objects in the Collection – cameos, intaglios and finger rings of the highest quality – is considerable: Greek, Roman and Etruscan, as well as a notable assembly of neoclassical signed gems by British artists. One remarkable group of cameos (made, it seems, for the Roman Emperor Octavian/Augustus) was owned by Cardinal Grimani, who encouraged artist friends to draw the figures on them. One jewel clearly provided inspiration for Michelangelo’s painting of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican. The Beverley Collection has been little known, except by connoisseurs. This lavishly illustrated volume, written by three principal authorities on gems and semi-precious stones, brings it to the attention of a broader audience as a demonstration of the finest products of one of the oldest arts of the western world.

 

The Ladrière Collection of Gems and Rings
by Diana Scarisbrick, Claudia Wagner, and Sir John Boardman

One of the world s finest assemblages of rings and gemstones, the Guy Ladrière Collection in Paris is of major art-historical importance. This handsome volume, co-written and compiled by CARC's researchers, is the first to catalogue, illustrate and describe all the pieces in the collection. Comprising some three hundred items, and including a rich and varied mixture of cameos and intaglios, the collection ranges from ancient artefacts originating in the Minoan period to gemstones and rings of the nineteenth century. It also boasts many medieval pieces, Christian crystal plaques and Lombardic stones with inscriptions.