In terms of cameo history, here's the "missing link" between the type we think of as 19th century (despite including very early 20th century examples that continued the neoclassical or Art Nouveau style) and those that are decidedly 20th century, featuring the thoroughly modern, short-haired flapper girls of the 1920s and their successors.
Cameos of course mirror our changing standards of beauty and I've never before seen one that so perfectly illustrates the spirit of the transitional period between Edwardian and Art Deco design eras. We can date it quite precisely to that timeframe, because it's signed Czecho. This mark was used for just a few years after creation of the Czech Republic at the end of World War I. The region was previously known as Bohemia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The young lady pictured here presents an entirely new vision of elegance. Her hair, while on the long side, is quite a lot shorter than was seen before the war, during which large numbers of women worked for the first time in roles other than domestic service. Hairstyles thus had to become more practical. Her attire also isn't idealized; it's no toga or fairy-like wisp, but quite easily recognizable as an evening gown, accented by an orchid corsage. And her face is that of a real person -- not just pretty, but strong and poised. There are no frou-frous in the background, either. Capping off the design breakthrough of the cameo is that it appears to be of carved coral, complete with natural color variations, but is actually celluloid -- the latest thing!
The frame is also truly exceptional: refined and elaborately worked in the Edwardian manner, but larger and significantly bolder in form -- obviously experimental in the best sense, reflecting openness to new influences and impulses.
Both the cameo and setting are in gorgeous condition. Since celluloid is a notably delicate material, it's clear the jewel has been treated with utmost care (as it well deserves). Gilding remains extremely brilliant, even on the reverse and outer edges. When a chain is separate, not integral, we can't establish firmly that it's original; however, I believe this one is, based on its graceful, intricate structure and the extent of patina present.
In every aspect, this jewel is an absolute WOW. The framed cameo measures about 2 inches by 1.5 inches and the chain is 17.5 inches long. Provenance is a West Coast estate.
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