Antique lapel pin with shell cameo of child Hercules, around 1875
There are many heroes in the myths of ancient Greece, but none is more famous than Hercules. As the son of Zeus and Alcmene. Zeus' actual wife, Hera, hated her rival's son so much that she sent out poisonous snakes to kill the newborn Hercules. But Hera had not reckoned with the special powers of the baby Hercules, for he strangled the two creepers with his bare hands.... On this lapel pin of the year around 1875 we see just this scene as a bas-relief in a shell in front of us. Hercules, depicted as a toddler, seems to be playing with the lifeless snake bodies and completely unconcerned he pulls one specimen into length, while another snake animal already lies slain on its back. The scene of the child, Hercules with the snakes is a classic theme of ancient pictorial art and has often been varied. A particularly beautiful version of the same motif can be found as a sculpture in the Capitoline Museums in Rome and as a wall fresco in the so-called "House of the Vettians" in Pompeii. Jewellery with cameos was particularly popular in the years of classicism and then again in the historicism of the late 19th century. That both sexes could wear jewellery of this medium is shown by the piece here, clearly made for a male wearer. The cameo, cut from shell, presumably in the Bay of Naples, is set in gilt silver. Probably brought over the Alps by a traveller, today it is perfect as a gift for a strong man, whom nothing can frighten - neither snakes nor other monsters, and if it does, Hercules is certainly a good companion!
Shells with mythological motifs were created especially in the 19th century in Italy for travellers on a Grand Tour. This so-called cavalier tour, which was supposed to perfect the education of the travellers, led to the antique buildings, to the art collections of Rome and Naples and the early tourists brought small souvenirs from their journey across the Alps, which were supposed to tell of the experiences of the Italian journey.
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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.