Gem with rider on horseback, perhaps at altar

Near Eastern, Persian, Sasanian
A.D. 300 or later


Length x width: 34.7 x 25.7 mm (1 3/8 x 1 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Bluish-gray chalcedony with large, dark gray patches on the back. Oval intaglio with two flanges. Slightly convex front and back surfaces. A man rides a horse in profile to left. He is large in scale in comparison to the horse. He wears a tall cap with a brim and the tails of a fillet trailing behind. His thick hair falls out from underneath the cap. He wears a full beard. The cap, hair, and beard are all striated. No facial features other than the man’s lips are rendered. A garment with a striped pattern is worn across his torso. The rider’s visible arm is raised high, brandishing an object which resembles a cap. A lance leans against the side of the horse and crosses under the rider’s only visible leg. The horse has long, pointy ears. Its mane is rendered as a series of small horizontal lines. Its long, thin tail droops downwards. Its hooves are distinctly indicated. A pair of reins falls down from its snout. A pair of horizontal lines encircles the horse’s throat, and another pair of horizontal lines runs across the length of the horse’s body, perhaps signifying additional trappings. To the left of the rider and the horse is an object that may be an altar. It is essentially trident-shaped. In the upper left-hand corner of the gem is a shape which resembles a downwards facing arrow. On the right edge of the gem is a series of four shapes composed of lines, one of which is an eight-pointed star. The intaglio is attached to a modern gold pendant setting. The back surface is very highly polished. There are a few very small nicks on the front surface of the gem, but do not interfere with the clarity of its design.


By date unknown: with Bernheimer's Antique Arts, 44 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02138; purchased by MFA from Bernheimer's Antique Arts, January 13, 1965

Credit Line

Mary L. Smith Fund