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. *
Our example is set in silver, and depicts a Roman soldier, otherwise known as a Centurion. This style of cameo was often sold to tourists who were traveling abroad to view the ruins of the ancient city. The Victorians romanticized the notion of a brave Roman soldier, adored all things classical in art and culture, and this would be the perfect keepsake to take home from visiting such a place.
Size (can be resized): 7
Weight: 3.9 grams
Materials: Silver, carved shell cameo
Condition: Very good antique condition; wear commensurate with age