Oval gem with bust of a woman

Imperial Period
late 1st century B.C.–mid 1st century A.D.

Catalogue Raisonné

Lewes House Gems, no. 113 (1920; 2002, additional published references).


Overall: 0.5 x 1.4 x 1.2 cm (3/16 x 9/16 x 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Brownish carnelian (also called sard). Intaglio. Very slightly convex front and back with deep, almost straight sides, and short inward front bezel. A deeply-cut female bust, almost frontal. The woman wears a band (fillet) around her hair, which is parted and pulled back behind the fillet. It falls in loose waves over her shoulders. Her head is tilted to her left, and a necklace adorns her long slender throat. Based on similar representations, the woman may be Io, one of the lovers of Zeus, or Agrippina the Elder, a member of the Roman Imperial family. There are chips along the right side of the gem and along the back edge. The side of the gem below the chin is strangely flattened and grooved.


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 287 (said to have been found in Chalcedon); by date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren; April 7, 1921: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 30,000.00 (this figure is the total purchase price for MFA 21.1193-21.1221)

Credit Line

Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912