Bracelet (part of a set)

Italian, probably Naples

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 556

Made to catch the eye of a shopper bent on ballroom glory, the cameos in this set of jewelry (99.33.1–.6) bear typical Grand Tour images, including (on the necklace’s clasp) Guido Reni’s Aurora fresco of 1614 (Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi, Rome), mythological scenes, peasants of the Roman campagna, and (on both the pin and the necklace) Bertel Thorvaldsen’s ever-popular marble relief Night of 1815 (Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen). Billing doves grace the earrings, and on one of the bracelets are a comely marine divinity and a dolphin.The rather flimsy fittings of stamped gold filigree suggest that this was costume jewelry, not meant to be worn often.

Regarding material, the substance being relatively soft, cameos made from seashells rarely survive from early periods. Such cameos are less labor-intensive than hardstone ones and do not permit the revelation of as many colors and strata, so were accordingly less prestigious. Nevertheless, in the hands of able carvers, shell cameos could attain high quality. The most prized shells were those of the helmet genus, which may have been more available to Americans than the choicest hardstones.

Bracelet (part of a set), Gold, shell (Cassia rufa), Italian, probably Naples

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