Beautiful mid-Victorian shell cameo with a representation of Eros (Cupid), classical god of love and desire, his head turned to face the front. The image is known as the 'Eros Centocelle', sharing its name with a Roman marble statue in the Vatican museum which copies an original Greek masterpiece by Praxiteles. The statue portrays Eros as a naked youth, his face framed by elaborate curls. Our cameo Eros has the curls in common but differs in his simple, stylized wings (they could almost be the butterfly wings of his beloved Psyche) and in being draped.
While I am unsure of the origins of this particular image in cameos, I have seen it reproduced on fine Berlin ironwork jewellery from the early 1800s. It may well go back further than this but I have yet to find examples in earlier gems or artwork. There is a matching representation of Psyche in the Berlin jewellery which is nearly identical, but Psyche’s wings have a different border and two distinct 'eye spots'. She is also wearing what looks like a fillet in her hair.
Finely carved, the cameo portrait seems to glow in its ornate gold mount which has no marks but tests as 18 carat gold. It has intricate Etruscan style wirework all around the frame. The hinge, pin and possibly the clasp are early replacements but work securely to fasten the brooch on the back. There is some evidence of solder repair on the hinge side of the frame, a few surface scratches on the back and a tiny fragment of missing wirework at the bottom, but otherwise condition is good with just a couple of tiny faint internal age lines at the edge of the cameo seen when held to light. It also has a safety chain attached and measures approximately 40mm x 34mm (1 9/16" x 1 3/8"). A lovely addition to an antique cameo collection!
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