Let's dance!

Three-dimensional antique shell cameo of Ariadne, Italy c. 1875

In the years around 1875, the present cameo was created from cut shell. It depicts a figure from Greek mythology. By the vine leaves and the vines in her splendid hair we recognize that it is the representation of Ariadne, the wife of the Greek god of wine Dionysus. The image of Dionysus and his entourage, famous and infamous for their lavish feasts, is strongly influenced in Western art history by the form that the cult, Greek in origin, took among the Romans. The "Bacchanalia" developed at the beginning of the 2nd century BC into excessive revelries accompanied by dances and orgies, which often took place in secret. In later centuries, followers of the god of wine and his wife Ariadne became synonymous with celebrating fun-loving people, but especially with lovers of good wine. In the late 19th century, the wearing of cameos was an expression of one's education, as the scenes depicted on them were usually figures from classical antiquity and the personnel of ancient sagas and lore. But it was also more than that. Cameos could be chosen motivically to represent aspects of the wearer's character as well as her interests in specific subjects. As the British author Edward Good wrote in his 1914 text "Cameos and Inspiration Jewellery": "Amongst the thousands of mythological, classical, and historical subjects which the artists of old depicted on cameos, one can always find a cameo that is a true expression of one's mood of thought and inner soul. Once you get one you really like, the attachment to it is almost human. After all, what is the old mythology if not the mirror of life and death, love and disappointment of our natural prehistoric forefathers?" So this shell gem, unusually detailed and beautifully cut, lends itself especially to be an ornament for a lady not averse to the pleasures of life!

To possess antique cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections for centuries: We find spectacular pieces as well in the Green Vault in Dresden, in the treasury of Rudolf II, up to the great private collections like that of Baron Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique seal stones and gems, which represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety. Thus they were not least an expression of a humanistic education. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carvings north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and carved stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys in order to enjoy the stories that the shells could tell. The art of gem cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been passed down from generation to generation. Today, the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only professional training centre in the world for gem-cutters, although unfortunately the mythological theme has almost been lost as a subject.

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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.

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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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