Secure me to port...

Fine shell cameo: "The Night" after Thorvaldsen, Classicism c. 1825

"Come, O death, thou brother of sleep, Come but lead me away. Loose my ship's oars, Take me to a safe port." So says a famous chorale by Johann Sebastian Bach. The present shell gem shows the personifications of the mythical pair of brothers - Sleep and Death - together with their mother Nox, the goddess of night. The finely carved depiction meticulously follows the famous model of the Danish sculptor Berthel Thorvaldsen. In 1815 he created a marble relief of the winged Night with her two sons - Sleep and Death. It is now in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, together with its counterpart, which shows the personification of Day. We show a historical photograph of the relief as the last image. Thorvaldsen's image quickly became famous and was widely disseminated, mainly through prints, but also through stucco, plaster or porcelain versions. A few years after the original, this gem was probably cut in Italy from a print. A setting of gold filigree, so-called cannetille, forms leaf and scroll work and allows the gem to be worn as a brooch. The goldsmith's technique of the setting also allows the piece of jewellery to be dated. Jewellery with cannetille was especially popular in the decade from 1820 to 1830. Cannetille is related to filigree and usually consists of finely hammered sheet metal and delicate gold wires. The forms used consist mainly of vines, spirals, and beehive-like elements that look like delicate lace and are often decorated with fine granules. The rise of the Cannetille coincides with the period of gold scarcity at the beginning of the 19th century, when large pieces of jewellery were in fashion but gold was expensive. Cannetille jewelry looks impressive, but uses little of the precious metal. Cf. with numerous examples Ginny Reddington Dawes / Olivia Collings: Georgian Jewellery 1714-1830, Woodbridge 2007, pp. 113-116 and David Bennet and Daniela Mascetti: Understanding Jewellery, Woodbridge 2010, p. 82, p. 85, etc.

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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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