Material: Sardonyx Shell, 15k gold marked.
Size: 2 1/8" by 1 7/8", cameo itself is 1 5/8" by 1 3/8"..
Date and Origin: Circa 1860 Italy.
Museum Quality cameo depicting Psyche, a very unusual depiction of her which I have seen only twice, a part this one. This one is carved on very dark shell so the carving results to be very white. Darker shells were the rarest ones, today nearly extinct, consequently they were and are the most precious ones. The carving on this cameo is outstanding, all the smallest details are masterly carved, look at many folds of her dress, amazingly made, look then at the veil that she's holding, it moves just like a true wind was blowing. There is a very fluid movement in this cameo carving, she nicely offers her face and her body to the light of the star above her and to the wind. She emanates a mix of innocence and sensuality which can be seen looking at the lifted arms at her nude breast and at her whole curved body. The butterfly over the clouds is her symbol and represent the Soul. She does not have the usual butterfly wings on her hair or on her shoulders. A full butterfly is depicted in this amazing cameo which seems to carry her on flight. Everything in this cameo looks as ethereal, even the clouds are carved as they were vanishing at their end. A wonderful rendition of a very rare and wonderful subject. The frame is an artwork which surround another one, the gold is superbly and totally chiselled, an intricate work of scrolls, leaves and semi-circles each one chiselled. Never seen before a frame like this one. Two works of art in one, cameo and frame. A must have for any collector and lover of beauty.
A bit of history:
In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings. The Greek word psyche literally means "spirit, breath, life or animating force". Psyche was originally the youngest daughter of the king and queen of Sicily, and the most beautiful person on the island. Suitors flocked to ask for her hand. She eventually boasted that she was more beautiful than Aphrodite (Venus) herself, and Aphrodite sent Eros to transfix her with an arrow of desire, to make her fall in love with the nearest person or thing available. But even Eros (Cupid) fell in love with her, and took her to a secret place, eventually marrying her and having her made a goddess by Zeus (Jupiter). Young girl of extraordinary beauty, Psyche instigates the terrible jealousy of Venus, which orders to Eros to arouse in her the passion for a man of vile condition. The God however falls in love with Psyche and conduct her in a fabulous palace where every night he goes to visit her under false semblances. Eros asks to the young one not to try to know his identity under punishment of the abandonment. One night, nevertheless, Psyche, instigated by her malignant and envious sisters and armed with a knife, draws near to the god making light with a lamp. This way, a drops of oil strains from the oil lamp falling on the shoulder of Eros, which arouses him and, disappointed, he abandons the young girl . In the desperate search of the lost love Psyche reaches the palace of Venus. The Goddess, moved by the anger, submits the young girl to a series of tests, that Psyche succeeds in overcoming thanks to the help of some Gods. Eros meanwhile, suffering of nostalgia, goes to search for the beloved one and found her, he asks the permission to marry her to Jupiter. The king of the Gods orders therefore to Mercury to go to take Psyche and to conduct her on the Olympus among the immortal ones. The history of Eros and Psyche fascinated particularly the Renaissance artists that represented her in all of her episodes in the decorations of noble palaces
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