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Cameo set in a 19th century mount
Mount by Alessandro Castellani
Roman Empire (Place Created)
2nd–3rd century A.D.
Sardonyx set in a nineteenth-century gold mount by Alessandro Castellani
3 × 2.8 cm (1 3/16 × 1 1/8 in.)
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.
The Greek hero Perseus 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. Over time, 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.
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.
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.
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
Munn, Geoffrey C. Castellani and Giuliano. Revivalist Jewellers of the 19th Century. New York: 1984, ill. p. 84, no. 91; caption p. 86.