Hermes and Nike
 
 
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18K gold tested .
  • Size:  2 5/8” by  2 3/8” only cameo is 2 1/8” by 1 7/8”.
  • Date and Origin: Ca 1840/1850, Italy, frame is probably English.
  • Conditions: No lines, a small surface shell chip on the back not visible from the front, more visible when cameo is backlit, a smallest trace of soldering on the back of the frame at 12.00 hours.
Museum Quality cameo depicting Hermes and Nike (the winged victory), even this one is a rarest subject never seen before. I'm still trying to find where the subject is from. The carving is exceptional,  look at the figure of Hermes, all of his muscles are perfectly rendered, his body is perfect like his winged shoes. The body of Nike is amazing too, look at her left foot and you'll see the precision of the carving. Nike's body is so feminine and sensual, despite her breast shield and her war helmet you can see just the grace and the sensuality of a female body. Another stunning subject.  Everything in this cameo is perfect, carving, details and proportions. Their dresses which seems like veils are just moving like there was a true wind blowing. Even the clouds where they are walking on are superbly carved and seem just the compact clouds that you can see in the sky before a thunderstorm. From all these amazing wonderfully carved details you can understand the skill of the carver who was undoubtedly a master. This is the first time that I see this subject, this could be from a painting or a sculpture and I'm still researching for it. A really more than stunning piece.  This is another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality cameo.
A bit of History:
Hermes (Mercury)
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and additionally as a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who travel across them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves and liars, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics and sports, of weights and measures, of invention, and of commerce in general. His symbols include the tortoise, the rooster, the winged sandals, the winged hat, and the caduceus (given to him by Apollo in exchange for the lyre). In the Roman adaptation of the Greek religion Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce. The Homeric hymn to Hermes invokes him as the one "of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates, one who was soon to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods." He protects and takes care of all the travelers, miscreants, harlots, old crones and thieves that pray to him or cross his path. He is athletic and is always looking out for runners, or any athletes with injuries who need his help. Hermes is a messenger from the gods to humans, sharing this role with Iris.
Hermes was born in Arcadia. According to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, Zeus in the dead of night secretly begot Hermes upon Maia, a nymph. The Greeks generally applied the name Maia to a midwife or a wise and gentle old woman; so the nymph appears to have been an ancient one, or more probably a goddess. At any rate, she was one of the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, taking refuge in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. They were discovered by the local king Abacus, who raised Hermes as his foster son. The infant Hermes was precocious. His first day he invented the lyre. By nightfall, he had rustled the immortal cattle of Apollo. For the first sacrifice, the taboos surrounding the sacred kine of Apollo had to be transgressed, and the trickster god of boundaries was the one to do it. Hermes drove the cattle back to Greece and hid them, and covered their tracks. When Apollo accused Hermes, Maia said that it could not be him because he was with her the whole night. However, Zeus entered the argument and said that Hermes did steal the cattle and they should be returned. While arguing with Apollo, Hermes began to play his lyre. The instrument enchanted Apollo and he agreed to let Hermes keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre.
Nike (the winged Victory)
 
In Greek mythology, Nike  was a goddess who personified victory throughout the ages of the ancient Greek culture. She is known as the Winged Goddess of Victory. The Roman equivalent was Victoria. Depending upon the time of various myths, she was described as the daughter of Pallas (Titan) and Styx (Water), and the sister ofKratos (Strength), Bia (Force), and Zelus (Zeal). Nike and her siblings were close companions of Zeus, the dominant deity of the Greek pantheon. According to classical (later) myth, Styx brought them to Zeus when the god was assembling allies for the Titan War against the older deities. Nike assumed the role of the divinecharioteer, a role in which she often is portrayed in Classical Greek art. Nike flew around battlefields rewarding the victors with glory and fame. Nike is seen with wings in most statues and paintings. Most other winged deities in the Greek pantheon had shed their wings by Classical times. Nike is the goddess of strength, speed, and victory. Nike was a very close acquaintance of Athena, and is thought to have stood in Athena's outstretched hand in the statue of Athena located in the Parthenon. Nike is one of the most commonly portrayed figures on Greek coins.