Circa 1875 shell cameo in ruffled, rolled gold frame depicts the late Victorian variant of the Biblical tale of Rebecca at the Well: A woman in bustled, tiered skirts, standing on a stone road in a village-like setting of buildings and trees.
Carved on a highly domed shell, with the setting handmade to fit its unusual contours, the oval cameo closes securely with a c-clasp and has a tube hinge.
Scenic cameos based on the Rebecca at the Well story became popular in the mid-19th century. One example: An 1851 ad for jewelers Brush & McDonnell mentions the motif first in its list of available subject options for “superb cameo brooches” (the catalog continuing with “Judgment of Paris, St. Michael chasing Apollyon, Lady and Distaff, Hebe, Belsarius, Aurora in her Car, Genius of War, Flower Gatherers, St. Cecilia, Holy Family, Fidelity, &c. &c”).
These earlier cameos contained detailed, clear references to the Biblical story, while the standardized late Victorian ones tend to dispense with everything from Eliezer, Isaac’s servant, to Rebecca’s water jar; to dress Rebecca in Victorian garb; and to transform the stone well into one or more simple brick buildings.
Though the 1870s saw a resurgence of interest in Italian-made stone cameos, by the middle of the decade there were as many (less expensive) shell cameos being produced in Paris as in Rome, and that may indeed be the origin of the example being offered here.
Measuring 1.75” by 1 3/8”, this brooch is in very good condition, with the cameo intact and free of any chips or cracks; issue is slight finish wear and darkening to the back of the frame.
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