Roman Amethyst Gem with the Bust of Athena / Minerva

Roman · 1st – 2nd century A.D.

Material

Amethyst

Dimensions

W: 2.5 cm

H: 1.8 cm

Reference

28575

Price

On Loan (L.2020.3)

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Overview

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.

Condition

Complete and virtually intact; minor abrasions and chips (posterior part), but the surface is perfectly polished.

Provenance

Art market, prior to 1996;

Ex- Araxi Garabédian collection, Geneva, prior to 1972;

Ex- Werner Hartmann (d. 2000), Geneva, 1996.

Exhibited

PAD, London, 2017

Bibliography

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.