Oval gem with Augustus as Neptune, mounting a sea-chariot

Roman
Early Imperial Period
31–27 B.C.


Catalogue Raisonné

Lewes House Gems, no. 105 (1920; 2002, additional published references).

Dimensions

Overall: 1.7 x 2.1 cm (5/8 x 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

27.733

Medium or Technique

Carnelian

On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)

Collections

Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Gems

Red-orange carnelian; the top surface is lightly bleached. Intaglio, set in a modern gold ring. The first Roman emperor, Augustus, represented as Neptune, the god of the sea, steps into a chariot drawn by four sea-horses through a turbulent sea. Augustus holds a trident in his right hand while his left hand grasps the reins. The side of the chariot is just visible by his left thigh. A dolphin and young triton (merman) act as escorts. The gem is inscribed in Greek “POPIL ALBAN” (Popilius Albanus), which is likely the name of the engraver or the owner of the gem. The bleaching was probably caused by fire.

Inscription

ΠΟΠΙΛ ΑΛΒΑΝ

Provenance

By date unknown: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection; 1898: auction of the M. Tyszkiewicz Collection, Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, 9 rue Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, lot 290 (said to have been found at Hadrumetum in Tunisia); by date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren; April 5, 1926: loaned to MFA by Edward Perry Warren (as 66.26); November 17, 1927: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 161,000.00 (this figure is the total price for MFA 27.647-27.761)

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912