This impressive antique shell cameo brooch reflects the Victorian fashion for mourning. Very well carved, it shows a scene above clouds of a classical muse sitting next to a child or cherub. The muse is resting her arm on a lyre. Behind them is a grave or memorial marked by a wreath. It looks as though the muse has performed a musical tribute to the deceased and is pausing for reflection before placing her own wreath on the grave. The cherub or young boy sitting alongside is holding a staff or rod, probably a symbol of comfort for the bereaved.
What I particularly like about this cameo is that both figures are facing forward. We can see their expressions - both pensive and sad - which reinforces the sense of grieving and of calm respect conveyed by the composition as a whole. A tubular gilt frame of woven design sets the cameo off beautifully.
Condition is good overall for the age, with wear to the gilt frame.The cameo sits securely in its mount and the brooch fastens on the back with a long pin and 'c' clasp. Various fine lines are visible in the shell when held up to light. A couple of lines above the muse’s head just come to the surface on the back but do not reach the front. The back of the shell has one or two thin traces of glue at the edge where it meets the bezel which are barely noticeable. In the centre of the shell is a signature, probably that of the carver, although I cannot read it.
This is a lovely, unusual piece to add to a collection of mourning jewellery or Victorian cameos. Including the frame it measures 65mm x 57mm (2 ½” x 2 ¼”) approx.
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