Scarab intaglio with goat being milked

Greek, East Greek
Archaic Period
6th century


Dimensions

Overall: 1.9 cm, 19.05 x 14.48 mm (3/4 x 3/4 x 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

63.1520

Medium or Technique

Carnelian

Not On View

Collections

Europe, Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Scarabs and scaraboids

Orange carnelian with red, brown, and gray striations. Scarab intaglio. Flat front face. The back and sides are worked with a minimal degree of modeling and anatomical detail. A goat is milked by a seated figure on the left. The goat is in profile to the right but turns its head back to face the figure. Proportionally, it is much larger than the figure. Its long, slender horns curve downwards. Its legs are thin and angular while the body is heftier. Its dot of an eye is just perceptible. The figure milking the goat is rendered on a very simplistic level. A single arm, reaching underneath the goat, is a barely-discernable line, while the legs and torso are more solid in form. There is a thin hatched border running around the edge of the flat face of the scarab. The scarab is pierced horizontally. It is unpolished and chipped in several places: on the flat face at the center at the top of the hatched border, on the flat face on the left edge by the back and head of the milking figure, and on the scarab’s backside on the right edge.

The identity of the figure milking the goat is problematic. A monkey milking a goat is an attested motif in Greek gems of the Archaic Period, to which this gem belongs. While it is plausible, and has been suggested, that the figure on this gem is a monkey or was intended to convey a monkey, the carving remains too unclear to determine its identification with certainty. It has also been suggested that the figure is a shepherd or a satyr. However, the rudimentary figure displays no visible attributes of either a shepherd or a satyr, and thus it cannot be identified positively as such.

Provenance

By date unknown: with Euripides Sepheriades (said to be from the Smyrna art market according to MFA archival card); purchased by MFA from Euripides Sepheriades, October 17, 1963

Credit Line

Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Zoë Wilbour