A ROGUISH ANTIQUE EROTIC CARNELIAN CAMEO AND GOLD BROOCH
Set with an oval carnelian cameo depicting a satyr and a maenad within a sculpted gold frame depicting twin profiles of Dionysus, grape leaves and a cluster of grapes (with a pendant hook), circa 1880
Cameos achieved a measureable degree of popularity throughout the nineteenth century due in large part to Napolean's and, later, Queen Victoria's interest in these small works of art. Depictions ranged from important personages of the day to representations of Greek and Roman gods, either in portraiture or as participants in particular events. The theme of the illustrated cameo represents baccanalian reveling, characteristic of the Greek god, Dionysus, whose boldly sculpted profile frames both sides of the brooch.
In Greek mythology, Dionysus symbolizes the youthful deity of vegetation, wine and ecstasy and was known as a bull-horned god because he often manifested himself as a bull, charged with fertility and power. His followers included maenads, women who engaged in riotous and ecstatic dancing, and satyrs who are bestial in their desires and behaviors and are portrayed with either horse or goat characteristics. Two such individuals adorn this cameo, caught in a moment of erotic desire. The dramatic characterization of Dionysus on either side of the cameo is atypical of Victorian cameos which are usually enframed in a simpler gold mounting.