Portrait in Shell

Here is an antique shell cameo, I wonder who she is. It is difficult to tell if she is slightly smirking, or a little grumpy, or bored of sitting still for photographs or carvings.

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Dating from the 1920s or 30s, she has ringlets in her hair, and sits in the classic cameo position of right-facing profile. Set in an ornate gold and Art Deco mechanical silver twist frame, with a brooch pin to the back and a loop to the top. Click HERE to view this lady in shop listing form.

Cameo is the ancient technique of carving a relief image between two layers of contrasting colour. It was popular amongst the Romans, and revived during the Renaissance, and again in Queen Victoria’s reign. On close inspection you can see the carving marks to the surface. If a cameo is genuine shell, the background should appear transparent when held to torch light. If the torch is held at an angle across the reverse, then the natural iridescent surface of the shell should be visible…

 

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