I only own one antique cameo, one that belonged to my grandmother. It's beautiful, yet unremarkable. As so many cameos, it is a woman's profile carved out of white shell against a coral background. Wish I knew it's history or even where or when my grandmother acquired it. But no, this little lady's history is a mystery.
From Collectors Weekly I learned, Victorian women on the Grand Tour—a traveling rite of passage for upper-class Europeans—sought out cameos on their travels.
In the salons of 18th-century Europe, carved gemstones were all the rage with high-society ladies. Cameo makers of the time would take Plaster of Paris molds of these carved gemstones as records of notable cameo collections. At the time, cameos were a sign of wealth and privilege, but glass paste brought cameos to the mainstream. Scottish artisan James Tassie began making molds of esteemed cameo collections to recreate the images as glass-plate cameos that could pass as carved jewels.
The copy of the cameo from it's plaster of Paris mold is called a "Tassie." I had never heard of Tassies, but while shopping the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show this past weekend, I discovered them in one of the vendor stalls.
Now I want to take a Grand Tour and collect my own. But there is more!
I never really thought about it, but gathered the Grand Tour was simply a vacation after college for the elite. However, I've come to learn it was more than that... it was a continuation of education. The Grand Tour was meant to enrich education in art, architecture, history, languages, and culture. With virtually unlimited funds, young aristocrats traveled throughout Europe commissioning paintings, purchasing antiques, and taking lessons in riding, fencing, music, history, culture, the classics and languages.
In my dreams the perfect grand tour would include painting workshops in Provence and Tuscany, castle snooping in England, Scotland and Ireland, market and farmhouse cooking lessons throughout France and Italy, and maybe a lesson or two on winemaking and sommeliering. I would love to be able to say "notes of Oak" with confidence and possibly in French. Without giggling.
I want to learn the finer points of goat cheese production. And to tour the Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay. I want to wave at HRH Price Harry and the lovely Ms. Markle from the top of a double-decker bus and smell the flowers at Monet's garden at Giverny. And since I will be close by, I must pay homage to my American heroes at Normandy.
I want to shop in flea markets and flower markets and dine at an outdoor bistro. I want to paint lavender fields. And design a new perfume. I want to go on a millinery tour of London.
And why not? I would love to travel Europe taking lessons in riding, fencing, music, history, culture and languages, too.
I want to learn. I want to be inspired.
I've been looking for a new goal. I may have just found it.