Cameo with portrait busts of an Imperial Julio-Claudian couple

Roman
Imperial Period
mid-1st century A.D.


Dimensions

Overall: 4.8 x 4.3 cm (1 7/8 x 1 11/16 in.)

Accession Number

98.754

Medium or Technique

Sardonyx

On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)

Collections

Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Cameos

White on brown layered onyx. Cameo. Two busts of a Julio-Claudian couple side-by-side; they are carved in very high relief. The man is wreathed and garbed in a toga, the edge of which is pulled over his head in an attitude of piety. He resembles portraits of the descendants (known as the “Julio-Claudians”) of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. The woman is garbed in the stola and under-tunic. Her hair is arranged in waves spreading from a central part; small curls appear below the wave on her forehead. Heavy ringlets fall over her shoulders. She also wears a wreath. The exact identities of these Imperial family members are not certain, but possibilities include Nero and Octavia, Claudius and Messalina or Agrippina, or Caligula and Drusilla. There is a chip in the lower edge of the gem, below the woman’s right shoulder.

Provenance

By date unknown: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection (said to have been found in Egypt, in the Fayoum, and then to have been in the Giovanni di Demetrio Collection); 1898: auction of the M. Tyszkiewicz Collection, Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, 9 rue Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, lot 273; 1898: with Edward Perry Warren; 1898: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 69,618.13 (this figure is the total price for MFA 98.641-98.940)

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund