Rare Shell Cameo of a Bacchante
 
 
Material: Horned Helmet Shell, also called Red Head, 15 k gold tested.
Size: 1 30/32" by 1 5/8".
Date and Origin: Circa 1850 Italy.
Conditions: A couple of natural slightest shell lines,  not visible by naked eye, almost invisible even when cameo is backlit, mentioned for accuracy, otherwise mint.
Museum Quality cameo depicting a Bacchante, a rare subject as cameos carved on red head shells are not so common. Bacchantes were followers of Bacchus the God of wine (Dionysus is the Greek name). This one has a magnificent three-dimensional carving that appears like a sculpture.  This is a very detailed cameo, crisply carved. Her head is crowned by the famous Bacchantes symbols, bunches of grapes and and grape leaves. The carver used the color of the shell to evidence the leaves, her hair and the panther pelt which she's wearing, the contrast between the orange color of those details and the white of her face and her shoulder is wonderful.  Everything perfectly rendered. Her curly detailed hair lean sotly on her shoulders. Her face is very pretty and her facial features perfect like her straight nose, her mouth and her eye. She's looking upwards in extasy. Her eye is so expressive and look at how it is carved, fabulous. She's also wearing one of the Bacchante symbols, the panther pelt, which is leaning on her shoulder. The thyrsus, another Bacchante's symbol, is also shown and finely carved. Look at the magnificent pictures which are able to catch this subject in all of its beauty. This subject is really amazing. I rarely have seen a so pretty Bacchante carved on red head shell.  This is an absolute beauty, a perfect cameo carved with so much skill by a true artist.   This is a rare subject masterly executed, another Museum Quality cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, 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.