Children of the night

Victorian shell gem as brooch in gold, around 1875

In the 19th century, the ancient world of the gods of the Romans and Greeks was the main source of inspiration for the gem cutters in the Gulf of Naples. This came in handy for travellers to Italy, as they visited the historical country not only for its blossoming lemon trees and its fine wine, but also to perfect their education and to trace antiquity among ruins and sculptures. Now and then, however, the gem cutters also cut shells after well-known works of art of their own century. The present shell gem shows Nyx, the goddess of the night, carrying her children in her arms, the pair of brothers Sleep and Death. The finely cut depiction meticulously follows the famous model of the Danish sculptor Berthel Thorvaldsen. In 1815, the latter created a marble relief of Night, which is now in the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, together with its counterpart, the personification of Day. We show a historical photograph of the relief as the last image. Thorvaldsen's imagery quickly became famous and was widely disseminated, mainly through printmaking, but also through stucco, plaster or porcelain executions. In the 1870s this gem was probably cut in Italy from a print. The gem is held in an elaborate gold setting. The meandering band around the gem shows the influence of antiquity on the goldsmiths of that time and allows us to classify the piece of jewellery as belonging to the so-called archaeological style. The brooch, which came to us from the south of England, is excellently preserved and a wonderful representative of Victorian gem jewellery.

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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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