The Antique Gem
The Antique Gem is a collage by Jess comprised of eight fantastical scenes featuring the Cupid as its central protagonist. The title of the work and the oval shape of these scenes, refer to ancient engraved gems, a form of fine art dating back thousands of years B.C. Underneath each of the scenes we can also see lines from a poem, which the artist cut out of the book Gems: Selected from the Antique—a 1804 publication by British painter and illustrator Richard Dagley that is considered an important document for the study of engraved gems and a historical artifact itself. The original poem, as Dagley explains in the publication, is an ancient Greek epigram by Aulus Licinius Archias found engraved in a sardonyx (a variety of rock-forming mineral) gem depicting the figure of Cupid curbing a lion. Echoing the poem and the gem itself, Jess’ collage typifies the power of love, as we see Cupid (or Eros) subjugating all nature—a lion, giant insects, and other surreal characters among them. Jess’ The Antique Gem connects antiquity to the present by bringing together various interpretations of one of the most essential human emotions: love.