Oval gem with bust of Serapis and griffin of Nemesis

Roman
Imperial Period
1st–2nd century A.D.


Dimensions

17 x 12.45 mm (11/16 x 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

63.1525

Medium or Technique

Carnelian

Not On View

Collections

Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Gems

Red carnelian with multiple small dark discolorations. Intaglio. Flat front and back surfaces with inward back bezel. The bust of Serapis faces in profile to left. He wears the kalathos, a basket for measuring grain, atop his head. His full beard and the drapery around his neck are rendered by thin lines. His coiffure is thick and elaborate. On the right of the bust is a small crescent moon and on the left is an eight-pointed star, possibly denoting the sun. Below Serapis is a kneeling griffin in profile to the left. Proportionally, it comprises just over half of the gem’s overall composition. It extends one of its forelegs and rests it on a small wheel of six spokes. The griffin’s tail forms a curve resembling a backwards S, and its wing is covered in feathers pointing upwards. Barely-visible thinner feathers cover its neck. Its ears are pointed. The griffin is situated on a ground line. This is the griffin of Nemesis, goddess of retribution, and appears in this manner with the wheel as her attribute in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Provenance

By date unknown: with Euripides Sepheriades; purchased by MFA from Euripides Sepheriades, October 17, 1963

Credit Line

Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Zoë Wilbour