Bacchante
 
 
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell, Pinchbeck.
  • Size:  just over 2 2/8" by just over 1 7/8" only cameo is 1 6/8" by 1 1/2".
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1860 England.
  • Conditions: There are no lines which can be seen from the front and I can't backlit the cameo since it is closed by a glazed compartment. I can see, at circa 1.00 hours, just above the head of the bacchante, a tiny area who shows like a surface irregularity on the shell. I really don't know what it can be and can't inspect the back. There are some dents on the frame. However condition are more than excellent.
Museum Quality cameo depicting a Bacchante in full figure, a rare subject as cameos depicting full figures are not so common. This one is magnificently carved and more it is very unusual because of the panther pelt worn by the Bacchante like an apron. This is a very detailed cameo, crisply carved. This subject is really amazing. The frame is also very unusual, depicting a snake which in the Victorian era was often used in the jewellery because it was considered symbol of luck. Frame is made of Pinchbeck which was in the past a valid alternative to gold that was very expensive and most of people could not afford it. This is a rare subject masterly executed, another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality cameo.
A bit of History:
 
In Greek mythology, maenads (Bacchantes) were the female followers of Dionysus, the most significant members of the Thiasus, the retinue of Dionysus. The maenads were also known as Bacchae or Bacchantes in Roman mythology, after the penchant of the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus, to wear a fox-skin. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by him into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and drunken intoxication. In this state, they would lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly, engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, and ritualistically hunt down and tear animals (and sometimes men and children) to pieces, devouring the raw flesh. During these rites, the maenads would dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped by a cluster of leaves; they would weave ivy-wreaths and fruiting vines around their heads, and often handle or wear snakes.