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Aurora and Cephalus

Maker(s) &

Unknown, maker, Italy


Messel-Rosse Collection




folding fan


circa 1750 circa 1780


second half of 18th century


Folding fan. Double chickenskin leaf, painted in bodycolour. Right, left and upper edge gilt. Sticks and guards of pierced and carved ivory (18+2). Rivet set is clear pastes. Front: painted overall with Cephalus and Aurora after the fresco by Annibale and Agostino Carracci (1560-1609) in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, commissioned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese (1573-1626) in 1595. reverse: Painted overall with a view of the Tiber and the Ponte Rotto, the ancient Pons Aemilius in Rome. Sticks: three shaped oval cartouches, each containing a chinoiserie scene: a boy holding out a chrysanthemum towards a seated Chinaman holing a pipe, with vases and flowering plants on each side. Guards: below the shoulder, a vase amid scrolls and flowers; above, scrolls, flowers and a Chinaman.


piercing; sticks+guards
carving; sticks+guards
painting; leaf


chicken skin; leaf
ivory; sticks+guards
gilt; leaf
bodycolour; leaf; polychrome


Folding fan- aurora and Cephalus. Double chickenskin leaf, painted in bodycolour. Right, left and upper edge gilt. Sticks and guards of pierced and carved ivory (18+2). Rivet set is clear pastes


length, guards, 29.1, cm
width, whole, 48.5, cm


bought; 1985-01-28; Countess of Rosse, Anne


Colonel Leonard C. Messel (1872-1953); his daughter Anne, Countess of Rosse (1902-1992)


Messel, Leonard; owner
Countess of Rosse, Anne; owner


The story of Cephalus and Aurora is told in Book 7 of Ovid's 'Metamorphoses', 694-713. Cephalus, an Athenian hero, fell in love with and married Procris. Shortly afterwards while hunting deer he caught the attention of the Goddess of Dawn, Aurora. She had a roving eye and was frequently attracted to young mortal men. Descending from her mountain home, Aurora carried Cephalus off with her. However, on finding that he remained faithful to Procris, she allowed him to return home, privately swearing vengeance. She caused a spirit of jealousy to infect their marriage and this eventually resulted in the accidental death of Procris who suffered a wound inflicted by Cephalus with his hunting spear.
Agnostino Carracci was a talented engraver and teacher. He also created drawings of the human body with so much accuracy that engravings produced from them were used as teaching tools two hundred years after their production. In 1582, the Carracci family founded the Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the Initiated.) It soon became the most popular teaching academy in Bologna. In 1597, Agnostino moved to Rome to live and work with his brother Annibale on the Farnese Gallery frescoes. After an argument in 1600, Agnostino moved to Parma to work on another commission for the Farnese family and died there in two years later.
In 179 BC the Pons Aemilius (today's Ponte Rotto) was built by order of the two censors with stone foundations. Then in 142 BC stone arches were added, making it the first all-stone bridge over the Tiber. Throughout Rome's turbulent history it was ruined and restored several times, until in 1598 it was finally abandoned, remaining a ruin to this day

Acquisition Credit:

Purchased with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a gift from the Friends of the Fitzwilliam


Armstrong, Nancy. 1985. Fans from the Fitzwilliam. A Selection from the Messel-Rosse Collection.Cambridge (Cambs.): Fitzwilliam Museum Enterprises Ltdp. pl. 4

Martin, John Rupert. 1965. The Farnese Gallery.Princeton: p. 103-105
Ref. pp. 103-05, and fig. 59, a reproduction of the fresco in the Palazzo Farnese attributed to Agostino Caracci. The design on the fan is the same way round as the fresco.

Thornton, Peter K.. Une des plus belles collections d'eventails du monde.
Source Title: Connaissance des Arts No. 134 (April-1963) : 94-99
p. 99
Publ. p. 99, 11, dated to c. 1760-80


Object Number: M.6-1985
(Applied Arts)
(record id: 117592; input: 2004-12-07; modified: 2017-01-04)


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