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 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 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. Jupiter, seen engraved on this piece, is the king of the gods associated with thunder, lightning and storms in Ancient Roman mythology. Regarded as the equivalent to the Ancient Greek Zeus, his iconography was appropriated from the Hellenistic tradition. Throughout Italy, he was worshipped on the summit of hills, with the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitoline Hill in Rome being the most important site dedicated to the god. The arrival of Near Easter religions in Rome saw Jupiter first juxtaposed to the deities of mystery cults, then, with the end of the Classical era, assimilated to the Christian God.
To find out more about intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post:Engraved Gemstones in Ancient Rome.