search_icon 0

Early Victorian Medusa Cameo Ring


Early Victorian Medusa Cameo Ring



DATE: Cameo Early Victorian, 1843 - Ring, Contemporary

A superb signet ring set with an early Victorian cameo depicting Medusa the Gorgon. The carving is exceptional, utilising the natural colour variance of the sardonyx to make the head (white) stand out in contrast against the red-brown background. She's depicted here in the Classical form: as a winged head, with striking beauty, and a snake knotted around her neck.

Medusa is the best known of the three monstrous Gorgon sisters. Our earliest reference to the Gorgons is found in Hesiod's Theogony, but it was Ovid who really fleshed out the story - in the Metamorphoses - where he describes Medusa in her youth:

"Medusa once had charms; to gain her love
A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
They, who have seen her, own, they ne'er did trace
More moving features in a sweeter face.
Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
In golden ringlets wav'd, and graceful shone."

Her beauty caught the eye of Poseidon, who forced himself upon her in a shrine to Athena. Athena was furious; she turned Medusa's hair into snakes, and made her face so hideous that anyone who saw it was instantly turned to stone (literally petrified). In most versions of the story, Medusa was killed by Perseus who was given various items to help him on his quest: a mirrored shield from Athena, a sword forged by Hephaestus, and Hades's helm of invisibility. While looking at the reflection in the shield, Perseus was able to behead the Gorgon, at which point Pegasus flew out of her severed neck. He went on to use her head - which retained its petrifying effect - as a weapon, using it to transform the Titan Atlas into stone (where he still stands in North Africa as the Atlas Mountains), before eventually giving it to Athena.

Although Medusa is commonly regarded as a monster, her head has often been seen as a protective amulet to keep evil away. Indeed, the name Medusa comes from the ancient Greek word meaning "to guard or protect".




Head: 2.6 x 1.6cm

Width of band: 2.1mm




No marks present, head is 22k gold & band is 18k gold




More From This Era