Judith and the oyster shell

30 Nov

Unknown, Cameo of Judith and Holofernes, 1500s, Oyster shell, slate backing, closed silver-gilt mount with claw and beaded settings, silver scrollwork frame with alternate heavily foiled almandine garnets and amethysts in closed settings, suspension loop and ring; 5.9 x 5.0 cm. cameo 3.5 x 2.4 Royal Collection, UK

Oooh, something shiney!

Cameo is a method of carving an object to produce a raised (positive) relief image – achieved by carving a piece of material where two contrasting colors meet, removing all the first color except for the image to leave a contrasting background.

The first cameos were carved from hardstone but shell came into use for cameo carving during the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries.   Renaissance cameos are typically white on a grayish background and were carved from the shell of a mussel or cowry (tropical mollusk).

This cameo features a full-length figure of Judith, in profile to the right, holding up the severed head of Holofernes.  She has a downward-pointing sword in her right hand and the foreshortened body of Holofernes lies behind her.   The shell has been backed with slate to add background color.
but who can resist garnets and amethysts?

1872 mauve and fuchsia afternoon gown, “Re-Designing History. FIDM Study Collection 1850-2000,”    Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, California, USA

I imagine this cameo at the throat of a Victorian gown – deep crimson with a bodice that ends in a high lace neck. Like this?

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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in Cacciatore


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