A lovely little Georgian shell cameo brooch circa 1830 depicting Mercury (the messenger god Hermes in Greek mythology) delivering the infant Bacchus (Dionysus) into the arms of Ino, sister of the Theban princess Semele. Bacchus was the illegitimate son of Jupiter (Zeus) by Semele and would later become the god of wine and fertility. His mother died before giving birth to him when Jupiter's jealous wife, Juno (Hera) found out about the affair and tricked Jupiter into killing Semele with his own thunderbolts. Jupiter managed to rescue his unborn child, concealing him in his thigh until the unconventional 'birth' was due. He then entrusted Mercury to take Bacchus to Semele's sister, Ino, who would foster and care for him, away from the vengeful Juno.
This beautiful mythological scene is taken from a famous bas-relief by neo-classical sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen dating from 1809. The carver of this cameo has faithfully rendered the subject in miniature. Ino, seated on a rock, prepares to receive the baby Bacchus, an animal pelt (one of his divine attributes) draped over her outstretched arms; Mercury steps forward to pass her the wriggly infant. He is wearing his winged hat (Petasos), winged sandals and trademark traveller's cloak. I like the way the baby's tiny hand reaches over towards Ino. There is lots of detail in the figures, with Ino’s graceful feminine form and finely draped limbs contrasting with Mercury’s handsome nakedness, his cloak thrown over one shoulder.
The cameo shell ha a curved profile and is set into an unmarked plain mount testing as 14 carat gold, with hinged pin and 'c' clasp on the back. The pin has been replaced at some time and is in white metal. It has a bend in it as shown and a little movement when out of the clasp but sits inside the clasp as it should when fastened. The cameo is in good condition for its age with slight wear but no lines in the shell.
This would make a super addition to an antique cameo collection and measures 32mm x 25mm (1 1/4" x 1") approx.
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