Oval gem with bust of a mature man

early 20th century?


Length x width: 17 x 12 mm (11/16 x 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Glass paste

Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Magenta-red glass paste. Intaglio. Flat front surface and convex back surface. The portrait bust of an elderly man faces in profile to the left. His hairline is vastly receding, and his hair is depicted in short, uniform locks. His brow is heavily wrinkled, there is a bag under his eye, and there is the slightest indication of crow’s feet. The bone structure of his gaunt face is clear, and his chin protrudes. A vein is visible running down his neck, around which is drapery.

An inscription, not carved in reverse, appears on the right edge of the gem and reads MTC. This inscription has been understood to denote Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Republican orator and statesman. At an uncertain point in the gem’s history, someone clearly believed the identification of the subject of the gem to be Cicero, and added the letters to make explicit that identification. However, while the man on the gem does fit into the conventions of veristic Republican portraiture, upon closer examination of Cicero’s body of portraits, the subject of the gem does not match well and in all likelihood is not him.


By 1962: Dr. L. Lahut Uzman Collection (according to his records: Bought.: Jan. 16. 1962. "Bedelle" 47 Bromfield Street [Boston]; 1962: inherited by Mrs. L. Lahut Uzman; December 12, 1962: one of the group of 20 gems (62.1145–62.1164) purchased by MFA from Mrs. L. Lahut Uzman for a total price of $ 2,200-

Credit Line

Theodora Wilbour Fund in memory of Zoë Wilbour