Saint Mary Magdalene
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell, 18K gold tested .
  • Size:   2 1/2” by  2” only cameo is 2 1/8” by 1 6/8”.
  • Date and Origin: Ca 1850, Italy, frame is English.
  • Conditions: A very few slight and short natural shell lines not visible from the front or the back, barely visible when cameo is backlit, mentioned for accuracy otherwise mint.
More than Museum Quality cameo mounted as a bracelet. This is the first time that I see this subject, this is surely from a painting and I think I have found it, it is shown below, the cameo is from the first painting both are by Guido Reni one of the most famous Italian Renaissance painters. There is something of slight different between the painting and the cameo, in the painting Saint Mary has her fingers crossed while praying instead in the cameo her fingers are straight. Again, on this cameo, there is, behind the Magdalene, an anchor, symbol of the hope. Knowing the story of  the Magdalene one can easily understand the reason why of the anchor. Her pretty and expressive face makes me amazed, I can really say that she seems alive. She is always depicted with her long hair (which is known she used to wipe Jesus feet after she washed them) and scantily dressed with her breast nude or almost as her story commonly says she was a prostitute before following Jesus. The contrast between her nudity and her praying pose is just wanted to underline that there is always the chance to a change of life. For this reason the carver has added the anchor, symbol of the hope.  The bracelet/frame is another work of art, built with many links, has a shape of a snake, other popular Victorian symbol. The gold links have a shape of two hearts on both sides closed by finely engraved buttons. A really more than stunning piece.This subject is amazing, she SPEAKS!   This is one of most beautiful cameos I have ever seen, the pictures speak by themselves. This is another masterly carved cameo. A very desirable collectors piece, rare and museum quality cameo.
A bit of History:
Mary Magdalene is called "the Penitent". St. Mary was given the name 'Magdalene' because, though a Jewish girl, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdala, in northern Galilee, and her culture and manners were those of a Gentile. St. Luke records that she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. She was present at Our Lords' Crucifixion, and with Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, at Jesus' empty tomb. Fourteen years after Our Lord's death, St. Mary was put in a boat by the Jews without sails or oars - along with Sts. Lazarus and Martha, St. Maximin (who baptized her), St. Sidonius ("the man born blind"), her maid Sera, and the body of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. They were sent drifting out to sea and landed on the shores of Southern France, where St. Mary spent the rest of her life as a contemplative in a cave known as Sainte-Baume. She was given the Holy Eucharist daily by angels as her only food, and died when she was 72. St. Mary was transported miraculously, just before she died, to the chapel of St. Maximin, where she received the last sacraments.
 Mary Magdalene was well known as a sinner when she first saw Our Lord even if some New Testament scholarship has shown that this picture of Mary Magdalene may not be true. She was very beautiful and very proud, but after she met Jesus, she felt great sorrow for her evil life. When Jesus went to supper at the home of a rich man named Simon, Mary came to weep at His feet. Then with her long beautiful hair, she wiped His feet dry and anointed them with expensive perfume. Some people were surprised that Jesus let such a sinner touch Him, but Our Lord could see into Mary's heart, and He said: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much." Then to Mary He said kindly, "Your faith has made you safe; go in peace." From then on, with the other holy women, Mary humbly served Jesus and His Apostles. When Our Lord was crucified, she was there at the foot of His cross, unafraid for herself, and thinking only of His sufferings. No wonder Jesus said of her: "She has loved much." After Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb, Mary went to anoint it with spices early EasterSunday morning. Not finding the Sacred Body, she began to weep, and seeing someone whom she thought was the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the Body of her beloved Master had been taken. But then the personspoke in a voice she knew so well: "Mary!" It was Jesus, risen from the dead! He had chosen to show Himself first to Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner.