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Victorian Revival "Medusa the Gorgon" Shell Cameo Brooch

Victorian Revival "Medusa the Gorgon" Shell Cameo Brooch



DATE: Victorian Revival, 1977

Striking round shell cameo brooch featuring the infamous Gorgon sister Medusa. Carved in high relief and, unusually, with a white border around the outside, she's depicted in the classical style with winged head and snakes tied around her neck, her contorted face emitting a terrible shriek... 

Medusa is certainly 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".

The brooch mount is modelled in 9 karat gold, with fine rope-twist border and rub-over setting. English import marks date it to 1977, and a K9 stamp indicates Italian origin. There was a revival of all things Victoriana during the 1960s and 1970s, with elements of the period inspiring designers and craftspeople across many disciplines, from jewellery, to fashion, to visual design and printing. This brooch is a classic example of the movement, and made during a time when Italy maintained its reputation for producing some of Europe's finest carved stones.


Shell cameo


4.4 x 4.4cm




English import hallmarks, 1977


Very good, with fine vintage patina

Victorian Revival Medusa the Gorgon Shell Cameo Brooch Victorian Revival Medusa the Gorgon Shell Cameo Brooch Victorian Revival Medusa the Gorgon Shell Cameo Brooch Victorian Revival Medusa the Gorgon Shell Cameo Brooch

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