Collection Online

Cameo shell
(c. 1850)

Medium
Queen Helmet (Cassis madagascariensis)
Measurements
15.7 × 17.5 × 24.8 cm
Place/s of Execution
(Naples), Italy
Accession Number
D23-1990
Department
International Decorative Arts
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Bequest of Miss Mary Turner Shaw, 1990
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
18th Century Decorative Arts - Great Hall Costume Corridor
Level 2, NGV International
Physical description
Carved with profile bust portraits of Jupiter and Juno, classical border.
This Queen Helmet shell is a virtuosic example of nineteenth-century shell cameo carving. The engraver, using chisels, drills and abrasives, worked inwards from the surface, retaining or removing material until the decoration slowly emerged. Layers of contrasting colours occurring naturally within the shell were skilfully used to create illusive depth in the ornament. The art of gemstone carving was known in ancient Greece and Rome, and revived in Renaissance Italy when connoisseurs began to form rich collections of engraved stones. Shell cameos, which were cheaper and more easily worked, became fashionable in the nineteenth century and were acquired as Grand Tour souvenirs.