Roman Amethyst Gem with the Bust of Athena / Minerva
1st – 2nd century A.D.
W: 2.5 cm
H: 1.8 cm
On Loan (L.2020.3)
This elliptical gem is perfectly carved and also finished in the highly domed, posterior part.
Athena/Minerva (the goddess of war and wisdom) is represented in profile and turned to the right. She can be easily identified by her attributes: she wears a Corinthian helmet adorned with a long plume (the headgear is lifted above her face and simply placed on her head), and her chest is protected by the aegis, the goatskin shield her father Zeus gave her. At the center of the aegis, the artist placed the head of Medusa (the gorgoneion) wreathed with coiling snakes. The hair of the young goddess is arranged backwards in small regular, straight locks; it forms a thick ponytail which descends on her neck and on her back.
Athena/Minerva as a warrior goddess is one of the most important figures of ancient iconography, and can be traced back to the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek art. This typology, which imitates various representations of the 5th century B.C. (numismatics, sculpture, ceramics, etc.), is widely used in Roman glyptics from the early Imperial period, both for cameos and semi-precious stone or glass intaglios.
Despite a certain stylization (in the facial features or in the treatment of the hair, for instance), perhaps also due to the type of stone chosen, the image engraved on this example is outstanding for its remarkable workmanship and for its accurate incisions.
Complete and virtually intact; minor abrasions and chips (posterior part), but the surface is perfectly polished.
Art market, prior to 1996;
Ex- Araxi Garabédian collection, Geneva, prior to 1972;
Ex- Werner Hartmann (d. 2000), Geneva, 1996.
PAD, London, 2017
PANNUTI U., La collezione glittica, Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli, vol. I, Rome, 1983, pp. 17-19, nos. 20-22 ; vol. II, Rome, 1994, pp. 113-114, no. 83.
ZAZOFF P., Die antiken Gemmen, Munich, 1983, p. 341, no. 280, pl. 109/5.
ZWIERLEIN-DIEHL E., Die antiken Gemmen des Kunsthistorischen Museums in Wien, vol. II, Munich, 1979, no. 1014, pl. 86 (purple glass); no. 69, pl. 78.
Museum of Fine Arts
National Museum Wales