- Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18k gold tested.
- Size: 2 5/8" by 2 2/8" only cameo is 2 2/8" by 1 7/8".
- 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 Highest Museum Quality cameo depicting a Bacchante. They were followers of Bacchus the God of wine (Dionysus is the Greek name). This one is really outstanding, one of most wonderful Bacchante which I have ever handled. The cameo is in its original fitted case of a London jeweller S. H. & D. Gass, 166 Regent Street, located there since 1839. Inside the case lid, other than name and address of the jewellery shop, you can also read a date 1851, which is the date of the first Universal Exhibition held in London at the Crystal Palace. This was probably one of the pieces brought there by that jeweller. Records of Gass and Sons participation to the Exhibition can be read in the Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations 1851 page 124 number 83. Only the best pieces, of course, were exhibited and this one, seeing the wonderful carving, was one of the ones. Its surpassing beauty is breathtaking. The beauty of her face is sensational, her facial expression is lovely, she seems is smiling. The perfect Greek nose and her mouth so full and round are perfectly rendered.Bunches of grapes and wine leaves in her hair and she’s wearing a panther’s pelt. The leaves are so finely carved that appears that you could pick them up. The panther pelt is another beauty, just look at how the animal is carved and more than all look at his paw softly lying on the Bacchante shoulder and you can even see the panther claws perfectly carved. The skill of the carver can be truly seen in this artwork. This piece is very large and the frame is really stunning, heavy gold embellished by gold beads. Finding a piece which was part of the Great Universal Exhibition is rarest, think to all the people who attended to that event and that saw this cameo which has arrived to us in pristine condition and still in its original case, it is incredible. The skill of the carver can be truly seen in this artwork. The pictures, even if wonderful, really don't give to this cameo any justice, seen in person it takes your breath away. This really is one of the most wonderful Bacchante 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.