James Tassie Cameo Portraits

Bardith has acquired 3 pairs of James Tassie cameos featuring historical figures from Great Britain. Read below for some background on these amazing objects as well as for the details about our own pieces.

History

James Tassie (1735-1799) was a Scottish-born modeler and engraver who produced many cameos and portrait medallions of celebrated figures of the time. He worked with physician Henry Quin to invent a secret composition of white enamel paste to replicate the precious gemstones that were typically used for cameos. This made the process much less expensive, and Tassie saw the opportunity to profit from the invention. He moved to London in 1766 and opened a workshop, where he met with great success.

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F. Malpas, Trade card of J. Tassie, glass tradesman, late 18th c. The British Museum.

Always concerned with reproductibility, Tassie usually made designs in three iterations: using his secret glass formula, plaster, or sulfur wax. This allowed him to make multiple copies of a portrait and allowed his nephew to continue reproducing his designs after he died.

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Oak Cabinet Containing Sixty Drawers of Gem Impressions in Red Sulfur Wax, ca. 1766-1776. The Walters Art Museum.

Bardith has recently acquired three pairs of Tassie cameos and they are available for purchase.

Hexagonal wax cameo portrait of Alexander Waugh

 

 

Inscription reads:

[recto] “Alex.Waugh A.M. Wells Street Lond. 1794 Tassie”

[verso] “Alexander Waugh 1794”

Alexander Waugh (1754-1827), a Scottish reverend and Doctor of Divinity who oversaw the Wells Street church.

Hexagonal wax cameo portrait

 

Inscription reads: “Uni Aequus Virtuti” “Tassie —”

Rectangular wax cameo portrait

 

Inscription reads: “G. O. Dempster Esquire M.P. for Perth & C. 1787 Sec. to them N. O. TH”

Rectangular wax cameo portrait

 

Inscription reads: “D. S. Buchaniae Comes 1783”

Oval cameo portrait

 

Inscription reads: “W. Ewing Maclae 1791”

Oval cameo portrait

 

Inscription reads: “Capt. Sir Will. Fraser Bar.T F. R. S. 1807”


Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about these wonderful cameos.

References

Gray, John Miller. James and William Tassie: A Biographical and Critical Sketch, with a Catalog of Their Portrait Medallions of Modern Personages, W. G. Patterson: 1894.

Lee, Sydney ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1899.