Cameo Gem Inset Into a Hollow Ring

Unknown1st century

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

A chariot rushes past the walls of a city on this Roman intaglio gem set in a gold ring. Although parts of the story are not depicted, a Roman viewer would have understood this scene as the episode from the Greek poem, the Iliad , in which the Greek hero Achilles drags the corpse of his Trojan opponent Hector behind his chariot around the walls of the city of Troy. The gem carver, however, left out a crucial element of the story--Hector's dead body. Frequently depicted in Greek art, this episode from the mythological Trojan War remained popular in certain forms of Roman art, especially gem carving.

This gem appears to be carved as a cameo from nicolo, a semi-precious stone with light and dark blue layers, but it is actually made from glass. Glass gems were a popular alternative to expensive semi-precious stones in Roman jewelry. They often imitated banded stones like agate and nicolo.

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  • Title: Cameo Gem Inset Into a Hollow Ring
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 1st century
  • Location Created: Roman Empire
  • Physical Dimensions: 1.2 x 1 cm (1/2 x 3/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Gem: glass paste; ring: gold
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Object Type: Gem
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 84.AN.857
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 110, Stories of Trojan War
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Roman
  • Classification: Jewelry