- Material: Sardonyx Shell.
- Size: approx. 6” by 5”
- Date and Origin: Circa 1860/1870 Italy.
- Conditions: More than excellent, a few minuscule chips to the mouth edges of the shell, a small chip to one of the shell knob, there is a very tiny patched area on the left which is approx. 2/8" at its widest point, the patch is intact and I can't see signs of deterioration, it is so well made that I did not noted it before, there is a tiniest hole which was once patched and the is approx. 4/32" at its widest point.
Excellent Quality carved shell cameo depicting Athena and Hera with Zeus disguised in a Eagle, a very rare subject finely carved. It is not easy at all to find finely carved subject on a whole shell and this subject, who groups three of the most important divinities of the Greek mythology, is rare. The details are well rendered as the helmet of Athena, her hair, the Eagle who is Zeus, Hera's hair and so on. Both Goddesses have pretty faces finely carved. The thunderbolts, which are one of the symbols of Zeus, are perfectly carved. This is a very lovely carved shell in more than excellent conditions. A very rare and desirable collectors piece.
A bit of History:
Zeus: in Greek mythology is the king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, and the god of the sky and thunder. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull and the oak. Zeus was the child of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest of his siblings. In most traditions he was married to Hera, although at the oracle of Dodona his consort was Dione: according to the Iliad
, he is the father of Aphrodite by Dione. He is known for his erotic escapades, including one pederastic relationship with Ganymede. These resulted in many famous offspring, including Athena, Apollo and Artemis, Hermes, Persephone (by Demeter), Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen, Minos, and the Muses (by Mnemosyne); by Hera he is usually said to have fathered Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus. His Roman counterpart was Jupiter.
Athena: In Greek mythology Athena, daughter of Zeus, was the goddess of Wisdom, of the Weaving, of the Arts, and, presumably, of the noblest sides of the War, while the violence and the cruelty were part of the dominion of Ares. The sacred symbols were the owl and the olive. She is almost always represented with a helmet or a shield and with the Aegis (a short armour with fringes) with in the center the head of Medusa given by Perseus to Athena in sign of thanks for the help had when he faced the Medusa. Athena never had an husband or lover and for this she was known like Athena Parthenos (the Virgin Athena), from which the name of the most famous temple dedicated to her, the Parthenon on Athen's Acropolis.
Hera: In Greek mythology Era or Hera (Juno for the Romans) was the wife of Zeus, and so the Queen of Gods. Faithful and jealous wife. She was the Goddess of the wedding and protector of the married women and of the birth and her constant fight against the infidelity of Zeus gave origin to the recurring theme of the "Hera's jealousy". Hera gave birth to Ares (God of War), Hephaestus (God of Fire), Hebe (Goddess of Youth) and Eileithyia (Goddess of the birth). Hera, jealous wife, often persecuted lovers and sons of Zeus. She never forgot an offence and was well known per her revengeful nature. Being angry with the Trojan prince Paris who preferred Aphrodite (Venus), Goddess of Love, to her, in a beauty contest, Hera helped the Greeks in the War of Troy and was satisfied only when the city was finally destroyed. The corresponding figure in Roman mythology was Juno. Her sacred symbols were the cow and the peacock. Hera was portrayed as a solemn and majestic figure, often sat on a throne while wears as crown the "Polos", a typical head gear of a cylindrical shape worn by the most important Mother Goddesses of several antique cultures. She held a pomegranate in her hand, symbol of fertility and death. The temples dedicated to her date back to 7th century B.C. and they were the earliest historical examples of Monumental Greek Temples, the "Heraion" in the island of Samo and the "Heraion" of Argo.