Outstanding Whole Carved Shell of Goddess Nike
 
 
  • Material: Sardonyx Shell.
  • Date and Origin: Ca 1870, Italy.
  • Size:
  • Conditions: There is a shaped piece of wood behind the shell, it is fixed with screws to the shell and worked to hang the shell to any wall. 
Museum Quality and very huge carved shell depicting Nike, the Goddess of Victory. I have seen only once a shell carved where there is no actual shell remaining on the top as every available space is carved.  I think or better I'm sure that the carver is the same one who carved the other similar shell as the style of carving, especially of the flowers, is just the same.  The central figure cameo is about 4.5  inches in height. The shell depicts Nike, the winged Victory in Greek mythology. The rest of the carving reflect also symbols of Greek mythology. The shell was surely carved in Italy, you know that the most skilled cameos carvers were from there.
The details of this shell are simply amazing, really no words to describe them. The two leaves branches carved just under the figure are laurel leaves, a plant who is also the symbol of Athena. Laurel is the plant of Victory and its leaves are always used to made crowns for winners.  The two leaves branches are joined together by a decorative bow which seems just real. Other branches departs from the center and, this is very unusual, they show a thistle and some clovers, this is very intriguing as clover is the symbol of Saint Patrick and of Ireland but even means the Holy Triad, (The Father, The Son and Holy Ghost), the thistle is instead the symbol of Scotland but even is associated to the pain of the Virgin Mary and, because of its thorns, to the crown of thorns worn by Jesus on his crucifiixion day.  In my opinion this is something related to religion even because we can find, on the left side of the shell, a branch of fleur-de-lys and we know that it is the symbol of purity and always associated to the Virgin Mary.  Close to the fleur-de-lys branch here is a small cameo of Athena. On the other branch we can see two roses and daises wonderfully carved. Then an intricate carving of decorative scrolls. The bottom of the shell is too fully carved with lot of leaves.  On the left side, close to the fleur-de-lys branch, there is a small cameo of Athena.  On the other side we can find a cameo of Hera.
The whole edge of the shell is richly carved with lot of three-dimensional ivy.
Nike is superbly carved and all of her symbols and the ones of Athena too, (Athena is often identified with Nike) are clearly shown, the crowned helmet, the shield, the laurel leaves around her spear and the caduceus. Everything is more than superbly carved making this shell a real unique work of art.
A real Museum Quality piece which really would deserve to have its own place in any Museum.


History
Nike is the goddess of victory, or, as the Romans called her, Victoria, is described as a daughter of Pallas and Styx, and as a sister of Zelus (zeal), Cratos (strength), and Bia (force). At the time when Zeus entered upon the fight against the Titans, and called upon the gods for assistance, Nice and her two sisters were the first that came forward, and Zeus was so pleased with their readiness, that he caused them ever after to live with him in Olympus.  Nike had a celebrated temple on the acropolis of Athens, which is still extant and in excellent preservation.  She is often seen represented in ancient works of art, especially together with other divinities, such as Zeus and Athena, and with conquering heroes whose horses she guides. In her appearance she resembles Athena, but has wings, and carries a palm or a wreath, and is engaged in raising a trophy, or in inscribing the victory of the conqueror on a shield. Nike also occurs as a surname of Athena, under which the goddess had a sanctuary on the acropolis of Megara.  Nike was closely identified with the goddess Athena, sometimes appearing merely as an attribute of the goddess. Sometimes the goddess was pluralised into Nikai.