The allegorical figures of Day and Night are some of the most beautiful to be found with regularity among cameos that have come to us from the Victorian Era. Because there are so many variants, they are taken up here in three sections: the figures in solo turns; the two together in jugate compositions; and the full figures of Bertel Thorvaldsen's reliefs.
We may not all be geniuses, but, as the Romans developed the concept, we all came to have one; even the gods were so endowed, with an essence, an animating spirit. We see them regularly on cameos, where they usually pass for the large-C Cupid. What differentiates the Geniuses (also Genii or Genij) from the God of Love is their means of transportation or their engagement in an activity characteristic of some other god. (Another genius, from a somewhat different mold, is discussed in the article on The Genius of Peace.)
Giulio di Pietro di Filippo de’ Gianuzzi, also known as Giulio Pippi or, for his Roman birth, Giulio Romano, a student of Raphael who went on to a successful career of his own as a painter and architect, seems to have been the author of many of the images that made their way onto cameos, while others may be the work of the Master himself. They were preserved and disseminated through etchings made of drawings by Tommaso Piroli, after the original paintings, published by Pietro and Francesco Piranesi.
It is perhaps natural, since goats are appropriate companions for both Cupid and the woodland deity Pan, lusty creatures all, that the Génie de Pan/Genio di Pan may caper into view more often than any of the others.
The equally lusty god of wine and revelry, Bacchus/Dionysus, is so, ahem, spirited, his Genius has several variations, with his car drawn by fauns (or satyrs that are themselves geniuses) or by a panther and pantheress.Although clearly part of the same tradition, not all of these figures and compostitions are known as Geniuses. The piece by Girometti in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is described as Cupid Masquerading as Bacchus. L'Amour du Vin Triomphant is drawn by a goat and a lion; wine can make a man a lover or a fighter. In this case, l'amour, literally "the love", is the equivalent of a small-C cupid, not the emotion. Similar terms in Italian are amoretto (pl., amoretti) and amorino (pl., amorini).
Cybele, primal mother of gods, is represented by her companion lions.
The god Apollo is usually seen travelling in a quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses, particularly in his aspect as Sol, the Sun god. However, Romano departed from convention, upgrading the draft animals from mere horses to half lion/half eagle gryphons.
It would not be unreasonable to also see this little figure as the Genius of Apollo, even though he is not part of the triumphal tradition.
Like her genius, Diana, goddess of the hunt and the inhabitants of the forests, also appears at times in a stag-drawn chariot.
While the horses are similar to those who draw the War God in Raphael's Days of the Week series, unlike his Raphaelian counterpart, the Genius of Mars does not stand to govern his chargers.
Can there be any question that this is the Genius of Ceres/Demeter, even though the butterfly suggests either Psyche or the carver thinks it is Cupid?And of course, in a Renaissance presentation, the King of the Gods himself, Zeus/Jupiter/Jove, astride his eagle servant, thunderbolts in his pudgy fist.
More abstract Geniuses will be coming soon.
Once well known, the Hours are now generally passing unrecognized on cameos, with the exception of those circling Apollo's Chariot of the Sun in cameo copies of Guido Reni's famous painting of Aurora leading the morining procession. In fact, they appear in one form or another with some frequency, either as individual figures taken from the lost series of frescoes known as "Raphael's Hours of the Day and of the Night", where they sometimes wear wings that readily lead to an identification as Psyche. They appear in other scenes: leading horses from the Olympian stables; sometimes themselves serving to draw a chariot; sometimes leading the way ahead of one. They may or may not be correctly identified but Wedgwood's Dancing Hours are ubiquitous.
Joyful and animated, these figures, linked hand in hand, adorn many Wedgwood pieces and are commonly known as The Dancing Hours. They will probably dance on under that name, but there are reasons to reconsider this identification.
Like Raphael's frescoes of the Days of the Week, the frescoes of the 12 nymphs known as "Raphael's Hours of the Day and of the Night" are available to us now only as black and white prints of etchings made directly from the paintings, as vivid chromolithographs of those etchings with colors added by the printer, and as ornamentation on items for use or for wear, such as cameos. Unlike the Days, general scholarly consensus is that the Hours were not painted by Raphael himself but by one or more of his disciples, from drawings that are thought to have come from the hand of the Master.