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Early Victorian Medusa Cameo Stick Pin


Early Victorian Medusa Cameo Stick Pin



DATE: Victorian, c.1840

An incredible antique stick pin featuring an exceptionally well executed sardonyx cameo of Medusa the Gorgon. Depicted here as a winged head, with striking beauty, and a snake knotted around her neck - the level of detail is extraordinary, and the carver has taken care to keep the subject in white, and the background in red/orange. It dates from the early Victorian period, crafted in 18 karat gold and remains paired with the original presentation box.

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 Green word meaning "to guard or protect".




Head: 2.4 x 1.5cm

Total length of pin: 9.3cm




No marks present, tests as 15k gold




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