Oval gem with Cupid riding a bridled hippocamp

Imperial Period
1st century A.D.


Length: 16.1 x 11.5 mm (5/8 x 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Orange carnelian. Intaglio. Slightly convex front surface and flat back surface with inward back bezel. Cupid rides on the back of a hippocamp to the left. This is a common motif in Roman gem-carving also depicted popularly in other media, such as the decoration of sarcophagi. Attention to detail is shown in the carving of both figures: individual feathers on Cupid’s curving wings, the musculature of his torso, the reins with which he controls the hippocamp, and the hippocamp’s facial structure are all visible and delicately rendered. The body of the sea monster terminates in a squiggly fish’s tail, and its horse’s forelegs are bent forwards, conveying a sense of motion. A section of the bottom edge of the gem on the left is broken.


By date unknown: Burton Y. Berry Collection; gift to MFA from Burton Y. Berry in Memory of Michel Chiha of Beirut, October 15, 1969

Credit Line

Gift of Burton Y. Berry in memory of Michel Chiha of Beirut