Cover your sky, Zeus!

Wonderful gem in gold setting as brooch: Zeus, father of the gods, 1870s

Cover your sky, Zeus, With cloudy mist And practice, like the boy Who beheads thistles On oaks and mountain heights! As Goethe's "Prometheus" shows, the 19th century was obsessed with motifs from classical antiquity, which ran through almost all genres of the arts. In addition to architectural motifs of antiquity in architecture, ancient legends were the subject of many literary creations of the time, and the yearning for antiquity was also reflected in the field of jewellery. Thus, in this shell gem from around 1870, we see the profile portrait of Zeus, the most powerful of all the gods of Olympus. His face is classically beautiful, with a Greek profile, and full of youthful masculine charm. The leonine hair flows richly around his head; his curls are finely rendered and detailed. A wreath of laurel adorns the divine head. Particularly beautiful here is also the clear separation between the white of the portrait and the darker ground of the shell. The probably Neapolitan gem engraver of the 1870s obviously oriented himself in the depiction of the father of the gods on an antique model, as they were found in large numbers in the famous antique collections of the city. The setting of the shell, which makes it wearable as a brooch, is forged of yellow gold and openworked in its framing. A beautiful piece of 19th century jewellery with an obvious antique reference!

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 should perfect the education of the travellers here, led to the antique buildings, into the art collections of Rome and Naples and the early tourists brought small souvenirs from their journey over the Alps, which should tell of the experiences of the Italian journey.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


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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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