Giacinto Melillo was a Neapolitan jeweller, trained in the workshop of Alessandro Castellani. He studied Ancient Art history, especially Etruscan, Roman, Greek and Byzantine art which greatly influenced him and his work.
Melillo took over the management of the Castellani workshop in Naples in 1870, when Alessandro Castellani returned to Rome, from which city he had been exiled since 1858. After he had travelled to London and Paris in 1861 and 1862, Alessandro had settled in Naples and founded a school of goldsmiths which, by 1865, was being run by Melillo and it is assumed that the Naples workshop of Alessandro Castellani was established at around the same time. Melillo was clearly a pupil of outstanding ability, directing a goldsmiths' school when he was only nineteen and running a workshop at twenty-four, by which time he was also exhibiting under his own name, at the Workmen's International Exhibition in London in 1870, where he won a silver medal. Melillo took part in fifteen international exhibitions between 1870 and 1900, receiving gold medals at five of them, including Paris in 1878 and 1889. Apart from his jewellery in the 'archaeological style', Melillo also produced silver copies of Roman treasures and exquisite coral jewellery. Melillo's jewels sometimes bear his initials but are more often than not unsigned.
A fine example is Lot 97, an Italian late 19th century gem-set pendant. The mermaid Parthenope is one of the most beautiful and historically significant symbols of Naples. Parthenope was one of the sirens in Greek mythology and, according to legend, attempted to entice Odysseus. Having failed in her attempt, Parthenope threw herself into the sea and washed ashore on the island of Megaride. The mermaid’s body was then claimed to have dissolved and formed the shape of Naples.
We were delighted to offer several superb examples of archaeological revival jewellery, inclusing a bracelet by Giacinto Melillo, in our auction of Select Jewellery & Watches, held in London and Live Online in October 2020.
Our Jewellery experts host six specialist Jewellery & Watches auctions a year across the UK.