The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a gemstone and usually set in a piece of jewellery, most commonly a ring. Such 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, with there being a steady decline in craftsmanship in the late Imperial Rome, until a revival of interest with the Byzantine and during the Renaissance.
The subject used for intaglios are diverse, with depictions of deities being a favourite theme. Nemesis, or Rhamnousia (Ῥαμνουσία), was the goddess of divine retribution against hubris (ὕβρις), the crime of showing arrogance before the gods, a major theme in Greek tragedies. Originally part of the Ancient Greek pantheon, she was also widely venerated throughout the Roman Empire. She is often represented as a winged goddess wielding a whip, a dagger, or, as seen on this piece, an apple branch.
To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.