In Greek mythology, maenads were the followers of Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Maenads were also know as Bacchantes, after the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus. The women who followed these gods were portrayed as becoming inspired by the god into a state of ecstatic frenzy through a marathon of dancing and intoxication. During these rites, the maenads would dress in skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy and tipped with a pine cone. They would weave viny wreaths around their heads or wear a bull helmet in honor of their god, and often handle or wear snakes. Referred to as "Mad Women" and the Nurses of Dionysus in ancient literature and myth, they fascinated the Victorians, who romanticized their figures in the decorative arts and jewelry.
Travelers on the Grand Tour of Europe found the newly excavated ruins of Pompeii to be an irresistible stop. Lava trinkets from these sites made for excellent and inexpensive souvenirs, easy to pack and carry. In addition, pinning a lava cameo on ones’ blouse proved the wearer to be a well-traveled person of culture and good taste. The local industry was equal to the demand and created many cameos and intaglios out of this unlikely material to the unending delight of the tourists.
This wonderful piece is made of a taupe colored carved lava Bacchante. Set in sumptuous 14 karat gold, it has a pin as well as a bale, and can be worn most effectively either way. We have named this beauty "Xantho"(Fair-hair), a name found on an ancient vase painting of a bacchante figure.
Dimensions: 2.3" x 2"
Weight: 44.1 grams
Materials: Gold, Carved Lava
Metal: 14K yellow gold
Condition: Very good antique condition commensurate with age and wear. Small chip in corner with 20th C. repair.