Stung by the bee

Antique shellgem after Thorvaldsen in gold, around 1890

This beautiful cameo shows a motif that has its origins in the world of ancient Greece: We see Venus and Cupid. Many a great fortune, but also many a misfortune is owed to this couple of the classical mythological world. The goddess of love Venus, born from a shell and responsible for the flourishing of love on earth, has a little helper, the god of love Cupid. Cupid shoots arrows at people with a bow - and this usually blindfolded, so that his arrows can also hit by accident and by mistake. Cupid's quiver holds arrows with different kinds of tips - half of the arrowheads are made of gold, the other half are made of lead. Struck by a golden arrow, people ignite in the fire of love; pierced by a leaden arrow, you remain indifferent and unimpressed by the charms of another person. On our shell-gem we see the naked winged boy rushing from the right. He stretches out his hand to the goddess of love, for a bee has stung him while trying to pluck a rose. But instead of comforting him, Venus instructs him: If this already hurts him, what wounds must his love arrows inflict on mankind. The scene is based on a poem by Anacreon. Berthel Thorvaldsen, the famous Danish sculptor of classicism, based on the poem shortly after 1800, also designed the model for our shell-gem. Numerous versions have survived, in the medium of drawing, in plaster, as copper engraving and also in marble. We reproduce here a version preserved in Copenhagen in the Thorwaldsen Museum (Inv. No. A417, cf. here). The brooch was made in Italy in the years around 1890 and came to us from Salzburg.

For centuries, possessing antique cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections and chambers of curiosities, from the Green Vault in Dresden and the treasury of Rudolf II to large private collections such as that of Baron von Stosch in later times. The 18th and 19th centuries produced numerous large imprint collections of antique sealstones and gems, which sought to represent the antique imagery of glyptic in its entirety, as they were also 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 world's only large-scale training centre for gem-cutters, although unfortunately the mythological theme world as a subject has been almost completely lost.

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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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