Carving on shells and glass was done in early Roman times. (Cameo is simply a method of carving in raised relief an object such as a gemstone, glass object or shell.) Carved shells were popular during the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th centuries, but even more so when new shells from the West Indies arrived in Europe in the mid-18th century. After 1850 demand soared as Queen Victoria wore them and the expanding middle class bought them as souvenirs of their Grand Tour excursions; they increasingly became massed produced through the last half of the 19th century. The most popular themes for these pieces were classical scenes from mythology and portraits of famous people.
This Victorian 19th century cameo is carved with a figure of a casually seated young lady with a winged cherub crouching behind her. The lady is in traditional long robes as befitting a Grecian mythological story. Her hair is braided and pulled back in a style befitting a woman of noble birth.
Slightly downcast, she is leaning against a massive tree. The cherub seems to be busy in the creation of a wreath. His arrow-filled-quiver lies before him. Perhaps our lady is disappointed that the cherub is not out helping to find her a suitor. For additional interest there is some additional landscape in the background, as well a boulder and a leafy shrub in the foreground.
The carver used positive and negative spaces to their best advantage, using the coral color of the shell as the sky, while carving his figures with the lighter ivory color of the shell. It is inscribed with the name, "Roberti," on the back.
The entire scene if fitted within a large oval rose gold bezel. It has been tested to be 9 carat. On the back it is inscribed with two difficult-to-read names.
The condition of the shell is excellent. There are some minor dings and dents to the frame as would be expected for its age. The hinge and clasp work well together. The lock can be fastened and closed so as to secure it more tightly. There is a small gold loop for hanging the piece on a chain.
It measures 2-5/8 inches wide by 2 inches high.
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