Think of me, Psyche!

Antique shell cameo set in gold & turquoises, Vienna circa 1890

This brooch from Vienna shows a figure from classical Greek mythology cut into a conch shell: depicted in profile, we see the king's daughter Psyche, whose great beauty aroused the envy of Venus. When her son, Cupid, the messenger of love, fell in love with the mortal, Venus entrusted the unfortunate woman with several dangerous tasks. But against all expectations, Psyche mastered the trials with the help of her lover, who disobeyed his mother's orders. Finally, the supreme god Jupiter took pity on the couple. He had a cup of ambrosia handed to Psyche, thus making her immortal and admitting her to Olympus. The beauty of Psyche, as we recognize her by her attribute, the butterfly wings in her hair, is masterfully captured in the cameo. Her gaze goes chastely downward, the hair is light and fragrant in every strand, every curl. Beautiful and clear, the white of the depiction stands out against the dark background. A frame of gold set with turquoise in the color of forget-me-nots frames the work and makes it a brooch. Cameo and framing were made in the last years before 1900. The cameo is signed on the reverse, "Cut by Gianfranci, Naples, Italy", we read here. The framing, however, was made in Vienna, in the heart of the royal monarchy. Several hallmarks prove this precisely, for the city of origin is noted here by a clear letter, the "A", in the hallmark. In later times the brooch was sold at the austro-hungarian court jeweller Rozet & Fischmeister: This is also attested by another hallmark on the pin. The classic path of a shell cameo: created in the Bay of Naples and then set in the cold north, can be traced precisely on this piece. Since the quality of the cut and the goldsmith's work is also of special quality, this psyche is a true collector's item.

In the Metamorphoses of Ovid, the story of Cupid and Psyche plays a central role. It is about the mortal daughter of the king, Psyche, who is so beautiful that even Venus is enraged with envy. In her rage, the goddess orders her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a terrible man with one of his love arrows. But the young god of love takes pity on her, for he himself falls in love with her. So he carries Psyche off to a palace, where he comes to visit her only in the dead of night, on condition that she never sees him or searches for him. Like many of those stories, this one takes a tragic turn, but ends in Psyche's admission to Olympus, where she finally finds happiness with Cupid at her side. The story of the two lovers has always inspired art, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, when artists such as Bouguereau or sculptors such as Canova and Reinhold Begas depicted various scenes. Here, Psyche is identified by her attribute, the butterfly wings, because her name in the Greek language not only stands for the soul, but also denotes the butterfly.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

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.


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.