Barbra’s Neo-Classical Cameo Brooch

This exquisite, large neo-classical style cameo brooch comes from the personal collection of Barbra Streisand. The 18k, antique gold-mounted shell cameo depicts Pheobus Apollo and the Hours, preceded by Aurora. This image is based in the painting “The Aurora”, which is a large Baroque ceiling fresco painted from 1614 by Guido Reni. It was painted for the Casino, or garden house, adjacent to the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi, in Rome. The work is considered Reni’s fresco masterpiece.

This beautiful cameo piece was once a part of a diadem-a jeweled crown or headband worn as a symbol of sovereignty. It is estimated to have been made in 1860, but could be older. My research shows matches of this exact design dating all the way back to 1780. The majority of cameos with this image were produced with a coral background, so this one is rather rare. The birthplace of the cameo was nearly 300 years before the birth of Christ in Alexandria, Egypt. They were popularized in the 16th century by England’s Queen Victoria. 

Spanning the years between 1760 and 1830 (approximately) the Neoclassical style of design dominated Europe and America. Harking back to classical antiquity, inspiration for neoclassical design came from ancient Rome and Greece. One of the most iconic neoclassical jewelry designs is the Cameo. Classic cameo designs typically feature a face or figure in profile carved in high relief from a hard material such as stone, shell, coral, oak ivory or mother of pearl. Barbra’s unique cameo piece sold at a 1999 Christie’s auction benefiting her foundation.