Cameo with Orestes, seated, and his friend Pylades

Republican Period or Neo Classical
1st century B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Lewes House Gems, no. 132 (1920; 2002, additional published references).


Overall: 0.6 x 2.4 x 2.9 cm (1/4 x 15/16 x 1 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



White on dark brown layered onyx. Cameo, in modern gold setting. Orestes is seated, resting his bowed head on his right hand, his left arm dropped on his left thigh with the half-closed hand hanging listlessly by his knee. To the left of his legs, there is part of a stone structure in courses, with faint horizontal striations (possibly an altar). Orestes seems not be sitting on this, but on something else, perhaps a stone, only a small part of which is visible. Between this seat and his thigh, a piece of drapery can be made out. In front of Orestes, Pylades stands looking down at him, his right hand resting on a high pillar, his head on the hand, his left arm lowered with the hand open. A garment falls in front of his right leg and is held between thigh and knee; higher it is seen in front of his chest and under his armpit. In the background, there is part of a doorway, with a fillet hanging from the lintel; the architectural fragments above the lintel are hard to interpret. Behind Orestes and in front of the doorway stands a guard, clean-shaven, with Roman helmet and shield, and there is also the hand and bent, sleeved arm of a fourth figure, his or her elbow as if resting on a ledge concealed by the head of Orestes. The scene has been identified as either Pylades and Orestes saying farewell in Tauris, before Orestes is sacrificed, or as Orestes and Pylades grieving before the tomb of Orestes’ father, Agamemnon, in Argos.


According to J. D. Beazley, The Lewes House Collection of Ancient Gems, no.132: said to have been found by a peasant from the Roman Campagna and purchased by Cardinal Albani; presented by Cardinal Albani to Countess Cheroffini; sold by her family to Monsignor Ferretti; about 1820: Vincenzo Natti Collection; sold by Vincenzo Natti to M. de S.; by 1907: with Edward Perry Warren (purchased from Rollin and Feuardent in 1907); April 7, 1921: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 30,000.00 (this figure is the total purchase price for MFA 21.1193-21.1221)

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912