Athena in Armour Carved Shell
 
 
  • Material: Cornelian Shell.
  • Size: approx. 5 6/8” by 4 1/2”.
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1850/1860 Italy. 
  • Conditions: More than excellent, a couple of minuscule chips almost invisible by naked eye and smoothed by time, on the left side some smoothed surface losses, can't say if they are natural, due to the growing of the shell, or not. A couple of tiniest chips to the knobs, very smoothed. 
Museum quality carved shell cameo depicting Athena in an unusual left profile for the kind of shell, simply amazing.  This is a Male Shell, very rare to find carved. A male shell is usually smaller than a female one and it is much more thick, just like this one is, I was told that by a sea shell expert, I can know about antique cameos but I don't have a deep knowledge about the sex of the shells.  It is not easy to find a so finely carved subject on a whole shell and I have to honestly say that this cameo has a real museum quality carving. Athena here is depicted wearing her shield and holding her spear. This cameo is full and rich of details, the helmet worn by the goddess, her wonderful long hair, her shield and her helmet both magnificently engraved. The grace of a woman and the force of a warrior are both on her face expression. Her perfect profile so crisply and clean and her beauty make of this cameo a real rarity. Wonderful carved shell  in more than excellent conditions.  A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality carved shell.
A bit of History:
In the 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.