Will we meet again? He is waiting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York… musically accomplished, all ‘chiseled’ up… and I have to face COVID traveling restrictions, a long trip, and a rather bad knee… He is Gennadios, a young man from Alexandria whose portrait is simply fabulous… one of my favourite works of Art in the world! Our story goes back to 1977 when, as a University student I visited, for the first time ever New York City, I marveled at the ‘Age of Spirituality’ Exhibition, and I set my amazed eyes on his Portrait Medallion…the rest is part of my life story. Ever since, and every time I visit New York I simply have to see him… These days, the Portrait Medallion of Gennadios, a fine example of Alexandrian ‘Good Life,’ welcomes MetropolitanMuseum visitors to ‘The Good Life: Collecting Late Antique Art at The Met’ Exhibition (May 24, 2021–May 7, 2023)… It’s an invitation I somehow have to meet… https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2021/good-life-collecting-late-antique-art
Introducing Gennadios, the Metropolitan Museum site reads: This exquisitely vivid image of an educated youth of the powerful port city of Alexandria probably celebrates his success in a musical contest. The medallion worked in gold on dark blue glass, was made to be mounted and worn as a pendant. There is so much more to Gennadios’s story… https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/466645?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&high=on&ao=on&showOnly=openAccess&ft=*&offset=480&rpp=80&pos=510
The Metropolitan MuseumPortrait Medallion, thanks to the inscription, and its grammatical variants, ΓΕΝΝΑΔΙ ΧΡΩΜΑΤΙ ΠΑΜΜΟΥCΙ, introduces us to an upper-class young man from Alexandria named Gennadios, a young man most accomplished in the musical art. This portrait served as an exceptional piece of Jewelry, a disk to be framed as a pendant… proudly worn by Gennadios… in the aftermath of a victorious musical competition, one may wonder. Age of Spirituality – Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. (1979), page 287 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Age_of_Spirituality_Late_Antique_and_Early_Christian_Art_Third_to_Seventh_Century
Worked in gold on sapphire-blue glass… to be specific, the drawing of Gennadios’s face was scratched with a fine point on gold leaf applied to the surface of a thin layer of glass… the Metropolitan Museum Medallion is a masterpiece of portraiture on a small scale. There is a group of similar jewel-like glass medallion portraits exhibited in museums around the world, but none is so exquisitely engraved. Scholars believe a lot of these Medallions come from Alexandria where a tradition in gold glass portraiture, like that of Gennadios’s, was active and popular. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Autumn 1977, page 46 file:///C:/Users/aspil/Downloads/The_Late_Roman_World_The_Metropolitan_Museum_of_Art_Bulletin_v_35_no_2_Fall_1977.pdf
The Gold Glass technique was particularly popular throughout the Roman Empire during the 4th century AD. Images in this technique were etched in gold leaf and then, the leaf was fused between two layers of glass… like a sandwich! Items of Gold Glass were usually created into circular bottoms of luxurious drinking vessels since the Hellenistic period. A popular practice for the Romans of the later period was to cut out the Gold Glass decorated roundel of a cup and cement it to the wall of a catacomb Grave to serve as a grave marker for the small recesses where bodies were buried. In Rome, where this practice was particularly popular, archaeologists discovered over 500 pieces of Gold Glass used in this way. Decoration themes for Gold Glass items vary from pagan mythology and portraits to purely Jewish or Christian imagery. Chapter 13 Making Late Antique Gold Glass by Daniel Thomas Howells, pp.112-120 https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20190801105206/https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/research_publications_series.aspx#AllResearchPublications
Here is a wonderful Video on the Gold Glass making technique by the Corning Museum of Glass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALNMn6DGQJg
I greatly enjoyed reading: The Ficoroni Medallion and Some Other Gilded Glasses in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Joseph Breck, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Jun. 1927), pp. 352-356 (5 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/3046553?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3Ae1a77ea3960c80fa8029287c7789e3cd&seq=5#page_scan_tab_contents and Portraits, Pontiffs and the Christianization of Fourth-Century Rome by Lucy Grig, Papers of the British School at Rome, Vol. 72 (2004), pp. 203-230 (28 pages) https://www.jstor.org/stable/40311081?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
For a PowerPoint on Gold Glass Portrait Medallions, please… Check HERE!