Bacchante
 
 
  • Material: Cornelian Shell, 9 k gold marked.
  • Size: 3 1/8" by just over 2 2/8". Only cameo is approximately the same size.
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
  • Conditions: A couple of natural lines in the shell only visible when cameo is backlit, not visible from the front by naked eye. Security chain is missed, see pictures.
A museum quality, gigantic cameo depicting a Bacchante. This one is fantastic, unusual depiction of a Bacchante. There are all the symbols like the wine leaves and the panther skin but there are fruits and flowers which can be attributed to the Goddess Pomona but she is definitely a Bacchante just because of the panther skin. However it is unusual to find even flowers and fruits and this makes this cameo a rare one. Look how the carver used the different colors of the shell to give colors to the fruits, flowers and to the panther skin. Isn't it amazing? This is a gigantic size cameo, not easy to find, usually huge size cameos are not so well carved, this one instead is really outstanding. A must have for any collector.
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.