JOHANN JUSTIN PREISLER

1698 — Nurenberg — 1738

Four Drawings of Antique Intaglios

red chalk. (a) 55/8 x 43/4" (143 x 121 mm); (b) 53/8 x 43/8" (137 x 111 mm); (c) 51/2 x 41/4" (140 x 108 mm); (d) 51/4 x 41/4" (133 x 108 mm). inscribed in part on the versoes: (a) intaglio in nicolo; (b) intaglio in cornelia; (c) intaglio in nicolo, bianco e nero; (d) intaglio in caledonia,... e Belle.

provenance:
Prof. Harry Bober, New York;
private collection, London (These drawings were part of a group of such studies, some of which were signed by the artist.).

As a young man, Preisler lived and studied in Italy for eight years. There he met his compatriot, Baron Philipp von Stosch, an antiquarian, collector, diplomat and secret agent for the English. Preisler probably executed these drawings for Stosch after antique gemstones in the Baron's great collection which contained over 10,000 cameos, intaglios, and antique glass pastes, the majority of which are now in the museum in Berlin.1 So important was this collection that the celebrated scholar Winckelmann catalogued 3,444 of these intaglios in 1758.2 Stosch himself published in 1724 a great volume on the subject, Gemmæ Antiquæ Caelatæ (Pierres antiques graveés), which reproduces 70 gems from European collections. The present beautifully rendered images may well have been intended for engraved illustrations in a similar tome. Books of engravings after antiquities of all kinds were an essential part of 18th century classical studies.

Nicolo, often used for gemstones in the first century and throughout Roman times, is a variety of onyx with two layers.3 The back layer is usually black jasper; the upper layer is thin, and usually bluish-white in color. Hence the inscription Bianco e nero on the verso of the drawing illustrated at lower left, an image perhaps of a philosopher. Nicolo was also the stone from which the head of the satyr, upper left, was carved. The head on the upper right, engraved in the reddish-toned carnelian, is an image of Dionysus. Lastly, at lower right, in chalcedony, is a mask.
1

Lesley Lewis, Philipp von Stosch in Apollo, May 1967, p. 326.

2

His publication appeared in 1760 entitled Description des Pierres gravés du feu Baron de Stosch.

3

Gisela Marichter, Catalogue of Engraved Gems, Rome, 1956, pp. XXVII – XXVIII. I am grateful to Dr. Joan Mertens for putting this book in my hands and otherwise providing valuable assistance.