Material: Sardonyx Shell, 15k gold tested.
Size: 2 7/8" by 2 1/2" only cameo is 2" by 1 5/8"
Date and Origin: Circa 1850 Italy. Original fitted case.
Conditions: Pristine, a couple of slight natural shell lines, not visible by naked eye, visible when cameo is backlit.
This is a Museum Quality cameo depicting a Bacchante in front face and almost in full body. A rarest find. This subject is a very popular Victorian one but finding the best carved ones is not easy at all. This one is, like all of my cameos, a wonderfully carved one. As always all the symbols of the Bacchante are well shown on this cameo as her head crowned by bunch of grapes and wine leaves but this one has something of unusual, the panther pelt worn as a stole, usually we can find Bacchantes wearing the pelt on their shoulder, for this unusual detail we can consider this cameo rarer. She's carrying a Thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped by a cluster of leaves and with the other hand she's holding grapes and wine leaves, even this details is very unusual. Evry detail is superbly carved but the one that I like more is the beauty of her face, so expressive and sweet and her facial features that are so pretty and and so finely made. If you look at her from different angles, it is incredible, her expression changes, you can see it even looking at the above pictures. She seems sad in one picture and happy in another one. Her oval is perfect and her eyes amazing. A fabulous rare cameo which mounts an imponent and intricate gold frame, fully decorated and chiselled with flowers and leaves. A work of art. This really is one of the most wonderful front face Bacchantes that I have ever handled. Not to be missed.
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.