Cumaean Sybil Cased

Material: Cornelian Shell,  15k gold tested, pearls, rubies.

Size: over 2 1/2" by 2 5/8" only cameo is 2 2/8" by 2"

Date and Origin: 1860 Italy. Original fitted case.

Conditions: Immaculate.  Mentioning for accuracy the presence of a few natural shell lines, visible when the cameo is backlit, very barely visible looking at the cameo by naked eye .

Highest Musem Quality cameo depicting the Cumaean Sibyl. With no doubt this is one of the best Sibyl that I have ever handled. The details are so perfect and crisply cut, the carving is three dimensional. Her turban is so perfectly made that you can see each single pleats and even the fringe at its end. Her dress is rich and marvellous and let you see a bit of her full and round breast. The carving is so amazingly made that you can see even the writing on the book and on the paper she's holding. Aldo the mask depicted on the urn behind her is superbly carved. The frame of this cameo is another work art, two interlaced snakes made of chiselled gold and gemstones. Snake motifs are one of the earliest historical and culturally diverse mythological symbols, and figure prominently in jewellery. These intriguing creatures and the alluring pieces inspired by serpents through the ages, from the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, represent a host of meanings in different countries and civilisations. To the pharaohs of Egypt, snakes represented royalty and deity and they wore them as sacred pendants around their necks. The Romans had different interpretations ranging from everlasting love to a symbol of wisdom. The Greeks also looked toward the serpent as a symbol of wisdom, and to Aesculapius, the god of medicine, who had a snake wrapped around his staff - a motif that continues to remain the symbol of the medical profession. The Hindus, Hebrews, and African and Native Americans have all endowed the slinky creature with various meanings, ranging from rebirth, transformations, sexuality and desire. It was in 1839 that lore and legend made way for the snake to become one of the most iconic motifs in jewellery. This was when Queen Victoria was engaged to Prince Albert and received a continuous snake ring, which signified everlasting love for eternity, with an emerald, her birthstone, centered in its head. Queen Victoria’s ring set a trend throughout England, and  throughout Europe, for a range of snake rings, coil-style flexible necklaces and bracelets with gem-set heads, as well snake brooches, cuffs, bangles, and hoop and drop earrings that featured a snake slinking around a gemstone.

A Bit of History

The ageless Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy. The word sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were eventually many Sibyls in the ancient world, but because of the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl in the legends of early Rome codified in Virgil's Aeneid VI, she became the most famous among Romans, supplanting the Erythraean Sibyl famed among Greeks. She is one of the four sibyls painted by Raphael at Santa Maria della Pace (see gallery below.) She was also painted by Andrea del Castagno, and in the Sistine Ceiling of Michelangelo her powerful presence overshadows every other Sibyl, even her younger and more beautiful sisters, such as the Delphic Sibyl. The Cumaean Sibyl prophesied by “singing the fates” and writing on oak leaves. These would be arranged inside the entrance of her cave but, if the wind blew and scattered them, she would not help to reassemble the leaves to form the original prophecy again.The Sibyl was a guide to the underworld (Hades), its entry being at the nearby crater of Avernus, This cameo is after a painting from 1622 ca. by Domenico Zampieri called “Domenichino” now in the Capitoline Gallery in Rome.