Cameo gem set into a mount

Object Details

Title:

Cameo gem set into a mount

Artist/Maker(s):

Gem Unknown

Mount by Alessandro Castellani

Culture:

Roman

Date:

gem 2nd - 3rd century; mount 19th century

Medium:

Gem: sardonyx; Mount: gold

Dimensions:

3 x 2.8 cm (1 3/16 x 1 1/8 in.)

See more

See less

The head on this cameo is the mythical Medusa, one of the three Gorgons, sisters whose appearance was so horrifying that anyone who looked at them turned to stone. Invariably, Medusa is depicted with snakes growing from her head; this Medusa also has a pair of wings on her forehead.

It was the Greek hero Perseus who beheaded Medusa as she slept, and her decapitated head, called the gorgoneion, is very commonly represented in art. The head was believed to have the power to deflect evil, and cameos like this were thought to protect the wearers from harm. By 600 B.C., Medusa began to be represented with a beautiful face, and the particular type of Medusa seen on this cameo is well-known in Roman sculpture.

This cameo is set in an elegant filigree gold mount created by the Castellani brothers, goldsmiths and jewelers working in Rome in the 1800s, who specialized in classical designs. Originally, the mount was made with a loop attached for suspension; later, the loop was removed and a clasp-pin attached to the back.

Provenance
- 1892

Sir John Evans, 1823-1908, by gift to his wife, Maria Millington on their wedding, 1892.

1892 - 1944

Maria Millington Lathbury, 1856 - 1944, by inheritance to her daughter, Joan Evans, 1944.

1944 -

Dame Joan Evans, 1893-1977

by 1983 - 2001

Mrs. Diana Scarisbrick, born 1928, sold through Oliver Forge (London, England) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.

Exhibitions
Rome on the Grand Tour (January 8 to August 11, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 8 to August 11, 2002
Classical Connections: The Enduring Influence of Greek and Roman Art (December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008
Bibliography

Munn, Geoffrey C. Castellani and Giuliano. Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century. New York: 1984. ill. p. 84, no. 91; caption p. 86.