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.
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.
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