A rare example of the work of Giacinto Melillo dating from around 1900. Giacinto Melillo was Castellani’s workshop manager from 1865 and attributed with making many of his finest pieces of jewellery. Around 1875 Melillo established his own independent business in Naples making similar revivalist classical pieces.
The design of these candlesticks is probably inspired by the Rod of Asclepius and Medusa, both from Greek mythology, the former a symbol still seen today in the logos of many healthcare related organisations. Often Melillo took inspiration from such depictions in Etruscan or Roman pieces in bronze, mosaic or pottery.
The snakes are beautifully modelled with the tails forming an almost art nouveau inspired base. The piece is of an exceptionally heavy gauge of silver which is typical of Melillo’s work.
An apparently similar pair of candlesticks formed part of lot 1164 at the famous sale of the collection of Mrs Henry Walters at Parke Bernet (now Sothebys NY) in 1941 (see catalogue extract in images).
Maker: Giacinto Melillo, Italy
Designer: Giacinto Melillo, Italy
Date : c 1900
Marks: G. Melillo, Naples
Material: Sterling silver
Size: 13 cm tall
Weight : 454 grams, 16 oz each
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Incredible snake candlesticks by Giacinto Melillo
ASee G Munn, Castellani and Giuliano. The British Museum holds a gold Etruscan revival bracelet by Giacinto Melillo ref M&ME Hull Grundy Catalogue 959. The Metropolitan Museum, New York holds a classically inspired silver jug by Melillo ref 2006.381.
In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius also known as the Staff of Asclepius is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care.