A cameo is a form of glyptography, or bas-relief carving, most often cut into glass, hard-stones, and shells. Artworks were crafted to create two layers on one piece of material, the top of which protruded from its background, creating a multi-dimensional artwork. These detailed reliefs were often used to adorn pieces of jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The earliest cameos took inspiration from prehistoric petroglyphs, which documented important religious and symbolic iconography onto rock faces.
Despite its popularity in previous periods, the most well-known era for cameo collection was the 19th century, inspired by royal cameo collectors Queen Victoria and Emperor Napoleon Buonaparte. Shelled cameos, which depicted these natural and humanistic scenes onto deep-sea shells, became quite popular under Queen Victoria’s reign. Similarly, Napoleon himself founded a Parisian apprentice school to foster the talents of young cameo carvers. *
This fabulous cameo brooch is a remarkable and stunning example of the technique. Formed from either a large portion of, or an entire seashell, it has a dimension and presence that is undeniable. The expertly carved, beautiful lady, with grape clusters in her tresses, may represent a Maenad, a female follower of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. The Maenads celebrated the god with wild, instinctual dancing, causing them to reach a transcendence which gave them great strength and power. The Roman counterpart to the Maenads were the Bacchantes, who worshiped the Roman god Bacchus. Whether intended as Greek or Roman, it is clear to see that this lady is quite special, a unique and rare object of history and beauty.
* Source: My Modern Met https://mymodernmet.com/history-of-cameo-jewelry/
Dimensions: 1 1/2" long
Weight: 9.8 grams
Materials: Gold, carved shell cameo
Metal: 14K gold