Ancient Roman Amethyst Intaglio with Apollo


A beautiful, Roman, amethyst intaglio carved with the profile bust of Apollo, facing right. The god is portrayed as a beardless young man with idealised features: almond-shaped eyes beneath heavy upper lids, a square face with broad cheeks, a round chin, a remarkably straight nose, and full lips. There is a laurel branch in front of the deity, attributing the bust as Apollo.

The piece comes with a professionally baked, modern impression.

Date: Circa 1st-2nd century AD
Provenance: From the collection of a Swiss gentleman formed in Europe from 1970-1980s; thence by descent from the family in London.
Condition: Very fine condition. Hairline crack to one side. The intaglio itself weighs 1.10g.

In stock

SKU: CY-173 Category: Tags: , ,

The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a material, most commonly a gemstone. Such an artistic form has its origin in Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, with the appearance of cylinder and stamp seals, whereby decorations and patterns were engraved into soft stones. During the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire, the art of the intaglio reached its apogee. The subjects used for intaglios were diverse, with depictions of deities and mythical creatures being a favourite theme. Apollo, who was known to the Romans as Phoebus, was one of the most important deities in the Graeco-Roman canon. He was the god of oracles, healing, the sun, and poetry, among other attributes. His multivalent nature, importance, and prevalence in mythology means that he was a popular deity, both for worship and for artistic representation. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, and was a twin with Artemis/Diana (goddess of the hunt). He had key sanctuaries at Delos and Delphi – the latter famous for its divine oracle. He is often portrayed as a hunter, his symbolic bow showing the more callous nature most deities possessed. His gentler side is often represented with the lyre, which proclaimed the joy of music, poetry and dance. The laurel leaf was sacred to Apollo, and perhaps most famously for its connection to the metamorphosis of the nymph Daphne.

To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.

To discover more about Roman deities, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Gods in Mythology

Weight 2.22 g
Dimensions L 1.6 x W 1.3 cm


Roman Mythology

Semi-Precious Stones

Reference: For a similar depiction: The British Museum, London, item 1923,0401.158

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