Dancing Queen

Antique coral cameo of a maenad in gold, locket brooch, Italy circa 1875

Impressive in its exceptional cut and its lifelike three-dimensionality, this brooch from around 1875 shows a wonderful cameo of Mediterranean coral held in a setting of 18-carat gold. The cameo depicts a figure from classical mythology: a Bacchante. Like her Greek counterpart, the Maenad, she was a follower of the wine god Bacchus (Dionysus), who was famous and infamous for his lavish parties, the so-called "Bacchanalia". The Roman Bacchanalia probably originated from spring festivals. At the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the cult celebrations then developed into excessive revelries, accompanied by dances and orgies, which took place in secret. In later centuries, bacchants became synonymous with celebrating fun-loving people, but especially with lovers of good wine. Cameo jewellery was particularly popular in the second half of the 19th century. Almost every lady in society owned a carved piece of jewellery, mainly depicting mythological motifs from antiquity. The great figures of history were loved, and so many philosophers and emperors, but also goddesses and gods can be found on the rings and brooches of this generation. Our brooch also belongs to this environment and presents such a cameo made of finely cut Mediterranean coral. Especially the region around the Gulf of Naples was specialized in the art of gem cutting and produced a variety of beautiful gems and cameos, which were exported worldwide. Our bacchante was also almost certainly created at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. The great craftsmanship in which the detailed and sculptural cut was executed is particularly impressive. The bust is reproduced en face; we recognize her by her characteristic grape ornament in her hair. An elaborate setting of gold makes the oval coral cut wearable as a brooch, and a compartment at the back allows the brooch to be used as a locket. An inlay of finely woven hair has been preserved in it.

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You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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