A Roman sapphire intaglio
Lot 198
A Roman sapphire intaglio
£20,000 - 30,000
US$ 34,000 - 50,000
Auction Details
A Roman sapphire intaglio A Roman sapphire intaglio
Lot Details
A Roman sapphire intaglio
Circa 2nd Century A.D.
Possibly depicting the Emperor Hadrian, the male figure bearded, standing draped, his right arm outstretched in front to offer a wreath at a bowl with flames rising from it, surmounted on a tripod, a footed oinochoe next to it, the figure looking up at the goddess Athena standing in the branches of an olive tree, wearing a helmet and holding a spear and shield, the intaglio carved from an ancient sapphire bead of oval cross-section, the drilled hole still visible from the exterior, 18mm length of intaglio; finger size 'I'; 20mm diam of hoop; set in a 19th Century gold ring

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    English private collection, formed in the 1950s.

    Literature:
    The Athenian iconography of this piece with the goddess Athena standing in an olive tree, the symbol of ancient Athens, suggests that the standing figure is possibly intended to represent the Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian, known as 'graeculus' or 'little Greekling' was a philhellene with a particular interest in the art and culture of ancient Greece.

    According to Thorsten Opper, under Hadrian's rule, 'the city of Athens received imperial largesse on an unprecendented scale and was physically transformed', T. Opper, Hadrian. Empire and Conflict, London, 2008, p.128. It has been suggested that this intaglio could refer to Hadrian's completion of the Temple of Zeus Olympios in Athens which was dedicated in the presence of the emperor in A.D. 131/2.
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