Cameo with head of Medusa

Imperial Period
2nd–3rd century A.D.


Overall: 5.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 cm (2 1/8 x 2 1/2 x 1/2 in.) Overall (gem, as preserved): 4.2 x 4.3 cm (1 5/8 x 1 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)


Jewelry, The Ancient World



White on gray layered onyx. Cameo, in modern gold setting. The face of the gorgon Medusa looks out in fully-frontal view. Her hair is arranged in wavy locks flowing around her head, atop which are two wings. Next to one of these wings is a snake; its tail is intertwined with a second snake tail just below Medusa’s chin. This gem is representative of the change in Medusa’s appearance over time; some of her depictions from the Hellenistic period onwards are called the “beautiful Medusa” type to distinguish them from her grotesque early images. There is brown encrustation in the carving of the hair.


By date unknown: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection (said to have been found near Rome, on the Via Appia); 1898: auction of the M. Tyszkiewicz Collection, Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, 9 rue Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, lot 277; 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