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Aurora and Cephalus

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Aurora and Cephalus


Unknown (maker)


Messel-Rosse Collection




folding fan


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.

Production Place

Italy (maker) (country)

Italian (maker) (nationality)

Technique Description

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


2nd half 18th century


circa 1750 to 1780


bought: Anne, Countess of Rosse 1985-01-28 (Filtered for: Applied Arts collection)

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

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


  1. Armstrong, Nancy (1985) Fans from the Fitzwilliam. A Selection from the Messel-Rosse Collection, Cambridge (Cambs.): Fitzwilliam Museum Enterprises Ltd [page: pl. 4]
    [comments: Publ.]
  2. Thornton, Peter K. Une des plus belles collections d'eventails du monde, [page: 99]
    Source title: Connaissance des Arts (April 1963)
    [comments: Publ. p. 99, 11, dated to c. 1760-80]
  3. Martin, John Rupert (1965) The Farnese Gallery, Princeton [page: 103-105]
    [comments: 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.]

Other Notes

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.

Accession Number

M.6-1985 (Applied Arts)
(Reference Number: 117592; Input Date: 2004-12-07 / Last Edit: 2011-07-22)

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