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Carved Gems

Carved Gems

The Ringling possesses a collection of 135 carved gems acquired by its founder, John Ringling (1866-1936), in 1928. The gems are mostly of ancient origin, with perhaps a few later examples. Since 2010, a selection of 67 gems from the collection has been on permanent display in Gallery 3 of the Museum of Art.

The gems were originally amassed by the Parisian art dealer Émile Gavet (1830-1904) as part of a very large collection of mostly medieval and Renaissance paintings, sculpture, furniture, and decorative arts. Gavet published a lavish catalogue of his holdings in 1889, and, soon after, Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt (who would later be known as Alva Belmont; 1853-1933) acquired a group of about 340 works from him, including the gems. Mr. Ringling then acquired most of Mrs. Belmont’s collection in 1928 for his new museum. Further information about this material can be found in the museum publication by Virginia Brilliant entitled Gothic Art in the Gilded Age: Medieval and Renaissance Treasures in the Gavet-Vanderbilt-Ringling Collection (2009) and in individual object records here on our eMuseum site.

The Ringling gems collection, which is presented in its entirety in this package, consists of intaglios, cameos, and scarabs. Ancient gems such as these were highly prized by collectors, particularly from the 15th through 19th centuries, as they were a sculptural art form from antiquity which could be easily handled, studied, and treasured. Research into this collection is ongoing.