Walked through the fire

Antique Lava Bracelet with Camos of Italian Artists, Naples circa 1860

Every traveller of the Grand Tour reached Naples sooner or later on his journey through Italy. The dream destination of the mostly young men in the years around 1800 overwhelmed with its location on the Gulf, the spectacular view of Mount Vesuvius, the gentle climate, its rugged yet enchanting cityscape and - last but not least - its rich, immortal art treasures of antiquity. So many spectacular art treasures had already been brought to Naples in the 18th century from the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which perished in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, that the museums here enjoyed world fame. Visiting them was a must in the city. And of course no one skipped a visit to Pompeii itself, with its macabre allure. No wonder, then, that souvenirs of this trip were not to be missed: a local art industry emerged, producing especially top-quality cameos from coral, shells and coloured local stone varieties, which were sold as "lava" from the volcano. Objects made of this material were particularly appreciated by travellers. We can easily reimagine their fascination: To hold here in our hands a piece of the mountain that had brought such a grisly end to the life of the Ancient World - but had also made possible its preservation for later generations! What better souvenir could be imagined? This bracelet presents seven finely cut cameos of that very material. The lava shows shades of greenish ochre, white or black. The who-is-who of Italian art and literature history is represented, a tour de force through the centuries: The round dance begins with Petrarch and leads via Raphael, Leonardo, Raphael again (as the pinnacle of Italian art), Antonello and Dante back to Petrarch. Petrarch, Raphael, Leonardo, and Dante are clearly identifiable based on their physiognomy, hair traits, and clothing. Only the black cameo gives us a bit of a headache, but it is possibly Antonello da Messina. The gentlemen are dressed in clothes of their time and are clearly and finely cut. The fact that poets and painters are lined up here in a colourful sequence may have been due to the preferences of the first owner, but perhaps also to the choice of the gem shop where the traveller (or travellers) went shopping at the time. The gems follow relatively standardized types and in many gem ornaments the same representations are found again and again; presumably they were all created in a few specialized workshops in the immediate vicinity of each other. The stone carvings are held by simple settings and are movably connected with small eyelets. The bracelet, created in the 1860s, is wonderfully preserved and a very special memorabilia from a trip to Italy in the 19th century. For dating and further information on this type of jewellery, see Charlotte Gere/Judy Rudoe: Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria, London: British Museum Press 2010, p. 494.

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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.