- Material: Sardonyx Shell, 15k gold tested.
- Size: 2 6/8" by 2 2/8" only cameo is 2 3/8" by 1 7/8" .
- Conditions: Very light internal lines in one corner that don't go through the shell, visible when cameo is backlit, mentioned for accuracy, otherwise mint.
- Date and origin: Italy circa 1860, the style is the Saulini one but it is not signed.
This is a superbly carved Museum Quality cameo depicting a rarest subject never seen before now, I think it could be Mercury carrying Pandora to her husband even if I can't know who is the sleeping winged figure in the center. Look please at how the three figures are carved, they are ethereal and the movement of their veils is so well done that really seems they are flying. A great cameo surely carved surely by a master carver, it is in the Saulini style even if it is not signed. Every detail of this cameo is amazing as the perfect body of Mercury, you can see even the muscles of his chest and of his legs. Look at the sensual body of Pandora and at how it was carved, simply outstanding. Look then at the sad face of the sleeping figure, a real human expression. Pandora is holding a box and a garland, the box was the gift of Zeus and the garland, or crown, was the one of the Horae. This cameo is pure perfection and even the frame is beautiful, simple and elegant just to evidence the superb beauty of the carving, a real rarest cameo that don't have absolutely to be missed.
A bit of history:
In Greek mythology, Pandora was allegedly the first woman, who was made out of clay. According to the myth related, each god helped create her by giving her unique gifts. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to mold her out of earth as part of the punishment of mankind for Prometheus theft of the secret of fire and all the gods joined in offering her "seductive gifts". Her other name, inscribed against her figure on a white-ground kylixin (drinking cup) the British Museum, is Anesidora, she who sends up gifts, up implying from below" within the earth. According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar, (which, due to textual corruption in the sixteenth century, came to be called a box) releasing all the evils of mankind leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again. She opened the jar out of simple curiosity and not as a malicious act. The myth of Pandora is ancient, appears in several distinct Greek versions, and has been interpreted in many ways. In all literary versions, however, the myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world. In the seventh century BC, Hesiod, both in his Theogony and in Works and Days, gives the earliest literary version of the Pandora story; however, there is an older mention of jars or urns containing blessings and evils bestowed upon mankind in Homer's Iliad.
Gods contributed to Pandora's completion: Athena taught her needlework and weaving; Aphrodite shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs, Hermes gave her "a shameful mind and deceitful nature"; Hermes also gave her the power of speech, putting in her "lies and crafty words" ; Athena then clothed her ; next she, Persuasion and the Charites adorned her with necklaces and other finery; the Horae adorned her with a garland crown . Finally, Hermes gives this woman a name: Pandora "All-gifted" because all the Olympians gave her a gift . In this retelling of her story, Pandora's deceitful feminine nature becomes the least of mankind's worries. For she brings with her a jar (which, due to textual corruption in the sixteenth century, came to be called a box) containing ;burdensome toil and sickness that brings death to men; diseases and "a myriad other pains; Pandora, a living jewel with garlands about her head and a golden crown was sent to Epimetheus, who was notorious for having no foresight, and always think, not before but afterwards. And although he had been warned by his brother Prometheus never to take a gift from Zeus, when Hermes came with the girl, Epimetheus accepted the gift, understanding its meaning only later. For it is told that until that time men lived free from ills, toil, and sicknesses. But Pandora opened a jar containing all evils, and scattered them everywhere (except Hope that remained inside by the will of Zeus). And ever since those evils have afflicted mankind as a reminder that there is no way to escape the will of Zeus.