Antique 18K & Carved Shell Cameo Mythological Brooch
A cameo is a form of glyptography, or bas-relief carving, most often cut into glass, hard-stones, and shells. Artworks were crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, the top of which protruded from its background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. These detailed reliefs were often used to adorn pieces of jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The earliest cameos took inspiration from prehistoric petroglyphs, which documented important religious and symbolic iconography onto rock faces.
Despite its popularity in previous periods, the most well-known era for cameo collection was the 19th century, inspired by royal cameo collectors Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon Buonaparte. Shelled cameos, which depicted these natural and humanistic scenes onto deep-sea shells, became quite popular under Queen Victoria’s reign. Similarly, Napoleon himself founded a Parisian apprentice school to foster the talents of young cameo carvers. *
In Roman and Greek Mythology, Psyche is a princess so beautiful that the goddess Venus becomes jealous. In revenge, she instructs her son Cupid to make her fall in love with a hideous monster; but instead he falls in love with her himself. He becomes her unseen husband, visiting her only at night. Psyche disobeys his orders not to attempt to look at him, and in doing so she loses him. In her search for him she undertakes a series of cruel and difficult tasks set by Venus in the hope of winning him back. Cupid can eventually no longer bear to witness her suffering or to be apart from her and pleads their cause to the gods. Psyche becomes an immortal and the lovers are married in heaven.
In Ancient Greek, Psyche is the word for both “Soul” and “Butterfly”. The butterfly is a symbol of a soul.
In works of art, Psyche is often depicted as a butterfly, or as a maiden with butterfly wings.
This fantastic carved cameo brooch shows Psyche perched atop her throne, with Zeus’ head carved into it. A jug of wine is at her feet and a sweet child offers her a basket of food, while a maiden plays the lyre for her entertainment. Beautifully detailed, it is framed in a lovely Etruscan Revival 18 karat setting. Truly a must-have for any cameo collector!
2.25” Long 16.5 grams
Please view and inspect any photos closely. We endeavor to fully disclose all condition information clearly and concisely, however, please note that what qualifies as excellent condition for historical jewelry differs from modern and contemporary pieces; please take the age of the piece into account when examining the piece. Minor age wear is typical and to be expected for antique and vintage jewelry. Unless otherwise stated, gemstones have not been officially graded for color, clarity, or treatment by GIA; any information provided is our own educated, professional assessment.
* Source: My Modern Met https://mymodernmet.com/history-of-cameo-jewelry/