Ancient Roman Carnelian Intaglio with Pastoral Scene


A finely engraved, Roman, carnelian intaglio depicting a pastoral scene. Portrayed on a horizontal ground line, an animal, most likely a goat, is seen standing with one foreleg raised, bending its neck and looking back towards a male figure. He is depicted sitting on a rock in front of a tree and leaning forward to reach the goat with his outstretched arm. On his head he wears a typical, conical cap, often seen on shepherds and herders. The reverse of the intaglio is flat.

The piece comes with a professionally baked, modern impression.

Date: Circa 2nd-3rd 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: Fine condition. The intaglio itself weighs 0.59g.

In stock

SKU: CY-174 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 intaglio reached its apogee.

The subjects used for intaglios were diverse and whilst heroic scenes of deities were a regular occurrence, so too were bucolic and pastoral scenes of daily life. Compositions including goatherds or shepherds depicted an aspect of Roman civil life, but it also held it’s own romanticism. Within Mythology there are a number of famous livestock herders, from Orpheus to Paris of Troy. Scenes with shepherds and livestock herders were a symbol of ‘Arcadia’. The term refers specifically to scenes detailing a harmony with nature, depicting an idyllic wilderness and natural landscape. The term was coined from a Greek region of the same name; it’s tall cypress trees and roaming hills forming this idyllic natural vision. This pastoral utopia was a concept used in Ancient times, with the Greeks associating ‘Arcadia’ with the god Pan, nymphs and dryads. Bucolic scenes appear from the 1st century BC but were especially popular during the Flavian period in the 2nd century AD.

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

Weight 1.43 g
Dimensions L 1.2 x W 0.9 cm


Semi-Precious Stones

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