Pliny's Doves are a popular motif for cameos- every collection boasts at least one roundel depiction of the fated four-fowl scene, but what on earth does it mean? Pliny was, for all intents and purposes, an ancient lifestyle blogger, reporting (in his epic work Natural Histories) on popular works of the ancient world, regretfully dying when he tried to take a selfie at Mount Vesuvius (no really, he went to report on the eruption at Pompeii and passed from the gas.) He did report on a very special mosaic of doves, however, at Pergamus-- saying:
Pavements are an invention of the Greeks, who also practiced the art of painting them, till they were superseded by mosaics. In this last branch of art the highest excellence has been attained by Sosus who laid at Pergamus the pavement known as the “Asarotos œcos”; from the fact that he there represented in small squares of different colors the remnants of a banquet lying upon the pavement and other things which are usually swept away with the broom, they having all the appearance of being left there by accident. There is a dove also, greatly admired, in the act of drinking and throwing the shadow of its head upon the water; while other birds are to be seen sunning and pluming themselves on the margin of a drinking bowl. (Loyd Haberly, trans.)
The Victorians were exposed to copy of the referenced mosaic, it at Hadrian's Villa (discovered in 1737.) And they simply couldn't get enough of the scene. Cameos of it were reproduced down to the little handle on the water vessel.
Circa 1870, this exceptional gold-filled Archaeological Revival brooch of Piny's Doves takes the utmost care to render every detail of the scene, down to the rippling water in the basin from which the doves drink and preen. A phenomenal find.
(this description, and many of my cameo descriptions, owe great thanks to CameoTimes.com, The V+A, and Jewelry in the Age of Queen Victoria, all sources you should immediately adopt into your own jewelry resource arsenal!)
Materials and Features: gold-filled, shell cameo
Age/Origin: Victorian, c. 1870
Measurements: 23.1 grams, 2.75"
Condition: Excellent condition. Minor age-related wear.
Please view and inspect any photos closely. We endeavor to fully disclose all condition information clearly and concisely, however, please note that what qualifies as excellent condition for historical jewelry differs from modern and contemporary pieces; please take the age of the piece into account when examining the piece. Minor age wear is typical and to be expected for antique and vintage jewelry. Unless otherwise stated, gemstones have not been officially graded for color, clarity, or treatment by GIA; any information provided is our own educated, professional assessment.