Mercury and Pandora
  • Material: Ivory.
  • Size:  8 3/8" by 7" in heigth, ivory cameo is 6 2/8" by 5" (measurements took from the back), from the front the cameo is 6" by 4 6/8" .
  • Date and Origin: 1828, France, signed by the artist "Lefevre, fecit, Paris 1828". Marble frame added later.
  • Conditions: Mint.
  • Note: Lefevre is recorded in Tardy as being based at 52 rue Bourg-l'Abbè, Paris from 1818. Tardy - Les Ivories - Paris, 1977, pag. 266.
If I should chose  only one word to describe this huge cameo I could say.... WOW! Have you ever seen anything like this amazing scene? This is the first time that I find a so rare subject, never seen before even not carved on shell. The scene depicts Mercury and Pandora after a sculpture by John Flaxman. This subject is rarest and in this cameo it was masterfully carved. The scene is so ethereal and just gives the impression that both figures are flying. The two bodies are perfect in every details, look at the feminine and wonderful Pandora's one, her breast is perfect, her neck and her sholders are pure poetry. Look at her hand holding the transparent flowing robe which becomes more thick when held by her other arm. Her elegant long legs are sweetly held by Mercury and covered with the transparent robe. She's pensive and looks a bit sad. She wears a wonderful decorated crown over her tied hair.  Mercury instead shows all the masculine strength, his body with his muscles perfectly designed and carved, he's carrying Pandora not showing any effort, it appears that he is carrying a feather. His face expression is firm and he seems to focus on his mission, carry Pandora to Epimetheus as Zeus wanted. His curly hair are fabulous seen under his winged helmet. This square cameo is three-dimensional and reminds me the bas-reliefs sculptures of Thorvaldsen or Gibson. All the beauty of this world is in this ivory cameo. As mentioned even for the St. George, French and Germans were masters in art of ivory carving. This is a wonderful example of the French ivory art. Pictures really don't give any justice to this work of art. You can see above an engraving made after the original by John Flaxman.
A bit of history:
In Greek mythology, Pandora ( was allegedly the first woman, who was made out of clay. According to the myth related, each god helped create her by giving her unique gifts. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to mold her out of earth as part of the punishment of mankind for Prometheus theft of the secret of fire and all the gods joined in offering her "seductive gifts". Her other name, inscribed against her figure on a white-ground kylixin (drinking cup) the British Museum, is Anesidora, she who sends up gifts, up implying from below" within the earth. According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar, in modern accounts sometimes mistranslated as Pandora's box , releasing all the evils of mankind  leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again. She opened the jar out of simple curiosity and not as a malicious act. The myth of Pandora is ancient, appears in several distinct Greek versions, and has been interpreted in many ways. In all literary versions, however, the myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world. In the seventh century BC, Hesiod, both in his Theogony and in Works and Days, gives the earliest literary version of the Pandora story; however, there is an older mention of jars or urns containing blessings and evils bestowed upon mankind in Homer's Iliad.
Gods contributed to Pandora's completion: Athena taught her needlework and weaving; Aphrodite shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs, Hermes gave her "a shameful mind and deceitful nature"; Hermes also gave her the power of speech, putting in her "lies and crafty words" ; Athena then clothed her ; next she, Persuasion and the Charites adorned her with necklaces and other finery; the Horae adorned her with a garland crown . Finally, Hermes gives this woman a name: Pandora "All-gifted" because all the Olympians gave her a gift . In this retelling of her story, Pandora's deceitful feminine nature becomes the least of mankind's worries. For she brings with her a jar (which, due to textual corruption in the sixteenth century, came to be called a box) containing ;burdensome toil and sickness that brings death to men; , diseases and "a myriad other pains;. Pandora, a living jewel with garlands about her head and a golden crown was sent to Epimetheus, who was notorious for having no foresight, and always think, not before but afterwards. And although he had been warned by his brother Prometheus never to take a gift from Zeus, when Hermes came with the girl, Epimetheus accepted the gift, understanding its meaning only later. For it is told that until that time men lived free from ills, toil, and sicknesses. But Pandora opened a jar containing all evils, and scattered them everywhere (except Hope that remained inside by the will of Zeus). And ever since those evils have afflicted mankind as a reminder that there is no way to escape the will of Zeus.