Arethusa
 
 
  • Material: Cornelian Shell, 18 k gold tested.
  • Size: 2 2/8” by 1 7/8” only cameo is 1 7/8” by 1 1/2”.
  • Date and origin: Ca 1870, Italy, frame could be English.
  • Conditions:  Two tiny scratches at circa 5.00 hours (approx. 2/32" each) , gold is a bit tarnished on the right side of the frame.  Mentioned for accuracy otherwise mint.
Magnificent Highest Museum Quality cameo depicting the Nymph Arethusa. A rare subject in a cameo and rare to find so wonderfully carved. She's portrayed in profile wearing a net and jewels, a dolphin is portrayed under her neck.  It is magnificently carved, look at her hair, she appears just coming out from an hairstylist! Again look how the carved has used the natural colors of the shell to give a touch of light and color to her hair, she just seems to have sun light on her hair. Arethusa here is depicted in a very feminine way. This is a cameo with an incredible carving and its beauty is enhanced from the frame which is made in massive gold very elaborately worked. This frame is really an artwork who surrounds another one.  A real magnificent cameo. Everything is perfectly carved and so realistic. All the details are perfectly rendered. This is a real work of art, a very rare piece from the Victorian era. The pictures speak by themselves about the beauty of this piece. This is another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality cameo.
A bit of History:
Arethusa was a nymph and daughter of Nereus (making her a Nereid) and later became a fountain on the island of Ortygia in Syracuse, Sicily. The myth of her transformation begins when she came across a clear stream and began bathing, not knowing it was the river god Alpheus. He fell in love during their encounter, but she fled after discovering his presence and intentions, as she wished to remain a chaste attendant of Artemis. After a long chase, she prayed to her goddess to ask for protection. Artemis hid her in a cloud, but Alpheus was persistent. She began to perspire profusely from fear, and soon transformed into a stream. Artemis then broke the ground allowing Arethusa another attempt to flee. Her stream traveled under the earth to the island of Ortygia, but Alpheus flowed through the sea to reach her and mingle with her waters. Arethusa occasionally appeared on coins as a young girl with a net in her hair and sometimes with dolphin around her head or under her neck. These coins were common around Ortygia, the location in which she ends up after fleeing from Alpheus.