Galatea's trip

Italian shell cameo in gold setting with mythological representation, around 1972

The "Triumph of Galatea" from 1512 is one of Raphael's most famous works and one of the rare depictions of the nymph Galatea - and it poses some puzzles for the viewer. The immensely wealthy banker Agostino Chigi commissioned the fresco as a wall decoration for his Villa Farnesina in Rome. The fresco illustrates a motif from ancient Greek mythology: the cyclops Polyphemus persistently but unsuccessfully courted the love of the beautiful Galatea. When the daughter of the sea god Nereus then fell in love with the young shepherd Acis, the jealous Polyphemus smashed the young man with a rock to draw Galatea's attention back to himself. The shell cameo here, similar to Raphael's interpretation in Rome, depicts the nymph Galatea described above. She rides a mythical creature, perhaps a dolphin, and is accompanied by four assistant figures and by two more dolphins. The cameo was cut in shell by an Italian cameo cutter in the years around 1970. Especially the region around the Bay of Naples was the center of cameo cutting art and their works were famous for their extraordinary quality. This scene is very rare to find in the cameo medium and stands out beautifully against the soft hue of the conch shell. A gold setting holds the transverse oval cameo securely and allows it to be worn as a brooch. The gold stamps on the back of the setting reveal that it was submitted to the Birmingham Assay Office in 1972, so it was made in England. The unusual cameo came to us from an important Berlin collection.

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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.