The doves of Aphrodite

Victorian brooch with shell cameo in gold setting, England circa 1860

This brooch from around 1860 shows a classic motif from the world of antiquity in its shell mosaic: four doves sitting at a drinking trough. The Roman writer Pliny already described this famous scene in his Natural History around the year 77 BC: "In Pergamon there is a famous mosaic with some drinking doves. Their heads shading the water, they sit on the rim of a vessel." These so-called "doves of Aphrodite" can be found today in numerous variations and materials in various museums around the world, because even in ancient times this motif was highly famous and popular. A floor mosaic from Hadrian's villa in Tivoli with this very motif is exhibited today in the Capitoline Museums in Rome, for example. The doves are the birds that pull the chariot of Aphrodithe, the goddess of love, which is why the dove is still considered a symbol of love today. The version presented here is finely and richly detailed cut in two-tone, light-colored shell. A plain setting frames the cameo, probably cut in Italy. The brooch came to us from London and has been beautifully preserved.

Shells with mythological motifs were created especially in the 19th century in Italy for travellers on a Grand Tour. This so-called cavalier tour, which was supposed to perfect the education of the travellers, led to the antique buildings, to the art collections of Rome and Naples and the early tourists brought small souvenirs from their journey across the Alps, which were supposed to tell of the experiences of the Italian journey.

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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.