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Bracelet centre

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved coral with turquoise and gold bracelets

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs K. E. Sargent

  • Museum number:

    M.36-1961

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 19, shelf B, box 3

This carved jewel would originally have been the centre of a bracelet. It is set with the head of Medusa, wreathed in snakes held by two coral hands. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a monstruous figure, whose hair was formed of snakes and whose glance would kill the onlooker. According to legend, coral was formed from the blood of the severed head of Medusa, explaining perhaps the choice of this motif.

Coral is formed by the skeletons of marine creatures. It has been used in jewellery since antiquity. It was believed to protect the wearer against the evil eye and was often worn by small children or made into rosaries.

Most coral in Europe came from the sea around Naples and nearby Torre del Greco. In the 19th century it became a fashionable souvenir. This was partly because people could travel more once the Napoleonic wars had ended in 1815, but also due to the growing popularity of naturalistic jewellery in the 1850s.

Physical description

Clasp, carved coral cameo of Medusa head wreathed in gold snakes and flanked by coral hands mounted with turquoise, furnished with gold bracelets.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1840 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved coral with turquoise and gold bracelets

Dimensions

Height: 3.8 cm, Width: 9.5 cm, Depth: 2.3 cm

Descriptive line

Clasp, coral cameo of a Medusa head flanked by coral hands mounted with turquoise. Italy, about 1840

Materials

Coral; Gold; Turquoise

Techniques

Carving

Subjects depicted

Hands; Snakes; Cameos; Gorgons; Heads

Categories

Jewellery; Myths & Legends; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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