Posted 2 years ago
This antique intaglio wax seal shows the Devil carrying Cupid on his back.
The motto in French says "LE DIABLE EMPORTE L'AMOUR", meaning "The Devil Take Love" or simply put, "To Hell With Love" (shown reversed in the second pic so it can be read).
This type of wax seal is called a "Tassie Gem" after its Scottish creator, James Tassie (1735–1799), who with his nephew, William Tassie, developed and commercialised a method to mold cameos and engraved intaglios into glass gems. These continued to be manufactured and sold into the 1830's.
James and William collected and published a huge catalog of carved gems, and some of these were reproduced in cameos by Josiah Wedgwood in his famous jasperwares.
James Tassie and Josiah Wedgwood were both competitors and collaborators. Tassie was the one commissioned to make the original casts of the Portland Vase. These became a major part of Wedgwood's repertoire, and the moulds provided by Tassie to Wedgwood produced many of the intaglios and cameos that made up a large part of Wedgwood’s jasper production.
The Tassies also produced cameo portraits of many of the famous people of their time, and these are important works of art and historical records in their own right.
They also made these seals to order for setting in fobs and rings - remember this was a time when everyone who was anyone carried a seal to secure and identify their correspondence.
This particular motto features in "A Catalogue of Engraved Gems Collected by William Tassie" that was published in 1830 (cf item 1493 in the last pic above).
While old seals are still reasonably easy to find, I think the sentiment on this one is rather extraordinary, and I'd love to know the circumstances that caused someone to adopt this as their motto.