Oval gem with Eos bearing torch and galloping horse

Roman
Imperial Period
2nd century A.D.


Dimensions

Length: 15 x 11.9 mm (9/16 x 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

69.1201

Medium or Technique

Jasper

Not On View

Collections

Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Gems

Red jasper. Intaglio. Flat front and back surfaces with inner front and back bezel. Eos stands at right behind a galloping horse, facing left in profile. She reaches out towards the horse, which looks back at her, with her right hand and holds a torch in her left. Her swirling drapery flies behind her outstretched right arm and conveys a sense of motion. Despite the small size of the figure, a fair amount of detail in the carving is present: her nose and mouth are distinctly rendered, and the folds of her garment and the locks of her hair are indicated by small lines. Eos’s hair is styled in a chignon. The horse is also carved in a detailed fashion. Its hooves are visible, as well as its mane, eye, and mouth. It seems that some of its trappings are indicated around its neck. Between the horse’s hind legs and front legs is a retrograde Greek inscription, reading HW. There are several chips along the back edge of the gem, but they do not interfere with the carved scene.

The figure on the gem was previously identified as a syncretistic Isis-Io and the inscription was interpreted as “Io.” However, this would mean that the iota was inscribed sideways. This identification is problematic because of an absence of the horns which signify Io. It is because of these horns that she was sometimes assimilated to the goddess Isis. Given the lack of attributes, the questionable interpretation of the inscription, and the issue of why Isis-Io would be depicted with a horse and torch, the identification of the figure as such is untenable. It is more likely that the figure represents the goddess of the dawn, Eos, who can be represented with these attributes and to whom the inscription probably refers. It should be noted, however, that there is no sigma in the inscription.

Provenance

Said to be from the Nile Delta; by date unknown: Burton Y. Berry Collection; gift to MFA from Burton Y. Berry in Memory of Michel Chiha of Beirut, October 15, 1969

Credit Line

Gift of Burton Y. Berry in memory of Michel Chiha of Beirut