Ganymede and Cupid Playing Dice
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell, 9K rose gold tested. 
  • Size: 4 2/8" including bail and pendant by 2 3/8", only cameo is 2 2/8" by 1 7/8".
  • Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
  • Conditions: A couple of slight internal natural lines which are visible only when cameo is backlit, not visible when cameo is seen from the front.
More than Museum Quality and huge cameo depicting a rarest subject, Ganymede and Cupid playing dice, after a bas relief by Bertel Thorvaldsen made in 1831. This cameo is simply incredible. A real work of art from another one, the marble relief. The original work has been fully respected, excluding the two veils that the carver made on both figures to cover their intimate parts, and each detail of it is present in this cameo making it an outstanding work of art.  Ganymede has won at dice and is holding the proof, the dice he has caught on the back of his hand, out to Cupid. But as everyone knows, those who are unlucky in love are lucky in cards – or here in dice. Cupid, the god of love, knows this better than anyone else and so he can point to himself as the true winner. The relief was made by Thorvaldsen himself, carved after the original model from 1831. A hard stone cameo depicting this subject was made by Tommaso Saulini after the work of Thorvaldsen and is now in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen (Denmark). I'm really speechless looking at this cameo which is something of really out of this world, there are no more adjectives to describe it. Everything is perfect and masterly carved. This is one of most beautiful cameo I have ever seen, the pictures speak by themselves even if they don't give any justice to this piece.  This is the first time that I get this subject, a rarest subject hard to find so finely carved. The frame of this cameo is another work of art, very elaborated and chiselled, it seems just an embroidery. Simply gorgeous. A very desirable collectors piece in immaculate conditions.
A bit of history:
There is an interesting story related in The Argonautika where Eros had an encounter with the cup-bearer of the Immortals, Ganymede (Ganymedes). A generation before the Trojan War, Jason and the Argonauts were sent to the land of Kolchis (Colchis) at the eastern edge of the (the Black Sea) to retrieve the Golden Fleece from King Aietes (Aeetes). Jason was under the protection of the goddess Hera who protected him and gave him her divine assistance. Hera knew that King Aietes would not voluntarily surrender the prized Golden Fleece so she decided to use the king's daughter, Medeia (Medea), to help Jason steal the Fleece. Hera asked Aphrodite to persuade Eros to strike Medeia with an arrow of irresistible love for Jason so that she would be immune to her father's control and assist Jason in his quest to obtain the Golden Fleece and return it to his home at Iolkos (Iolcos).
Ganymede was one of the three sons of Tros who was, in turn, the great-grandson of Zeus and the great-grandfather of Priam, who was the last king of Troy. He was abducted by Zeus and taken to Mount Olympos (Olympus) where he was made the cup-bearer of the Immortals and thus became immortal himself. When Aphrodite went to Mount Olympos to see Eros, the young god was playing dice with Ganymede. Aphrodite scolded Eros for cheating an innocent child. She then asked Eros to strike Medeia with one of his arrows of Love. She promised him a golden ball that, when thrown into the air, would flair like a meteor if he would do her bidding.
Eros did as Aphrodite wished and Medeia was irresistibly attracted to Jason. Medeia evoked the goddess Hekate (Hecate) to protect Jason and used her knowledge of spells and enchantments to assist Jason. She used her supernatural powers to subdue the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece and, once they had made their escape from Kolchis, assisted Jason in the cold blooded murder of her stepbrother, Apsyrtos. The power that Eros wields over mortals is unimaginable.
We often think of Eros as an infant but he is usually depicted in ancient artwork as a young man. Eros is one of the oldest of the Immortals and was the forth Immortal to come into existence. Eros was preceded by Chaos (the first Immortal), Gaia (Earth) and Tartaros (the Pit). His age cannot be estimated but he existed eons before the Olympian Immortals came to power.