Hermes the messenger of the gods

Rare shell-temme with Hermes after Giambologna, Italy around 1900

This brooch from around 1900 shows a finely cut shell cameo with the depiction of one of the most important gods of Olympus. Shown is the god Hermes - known as Mercury in Roman mythology - in his function as messenger of the gods. Hermes, the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, a daughter of Atlas, was in Greek mythology on the one hand the patron god of traffic, travellers, merchants and shepherds, but on the other hand also the god of thieves, art dealers, oratory, gymnastics and magic. A universal patron god, then - and he has been depicted many hundreds of times in the history of art. The most famous image of Hermes today was created by Giambologna in Florence around 1580 and this bronze statue was also the model for this cameo. We see the god balancing on a column of air, ejected by the wind god Zephir. Hermes is about to leave the world of the gods to inform the people of the decisions of Olympus with his winged sandals. The oval cameo is held in place by a plain setting of 14-karat gold, set by a simple corded rim that makes it wearable as a brooch. It came to us from London and its reference to Florentine renaissance art makes it a particularly beautiful piece of jewellery that may once have been a souvenir from a trip to Italy.

For centuries, the possession of cameos and gems was the claim of almost all great collections of decorative arts 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 seal stones and gems, which were able to represent the antique imagery of glyptic almost in its entirety, as they were also an expression of a humanistic education. However, the art of gem-cutting has survived to this day in Italy, especially in the Bay of Naples, where it has been handed down from generation to generation. Today the Scuola dei Cammei in Torre del Greco is the only large-scale training centre for gem-cutters in Italy. Of particular importance for the transmission of stone and shell carving north of the Alps have always been travellers to Italy, who brought home impressions and cut stones as well as engraved shells from their educational journeys to enjoy.

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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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