Cameo set into a mount

Unknowngem 5th century; mount modern

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

On this cameo, a hand pinches an earlobe between the thumb and forefinger; above, there is another object, perhaps a knotted scarf or a diadem. Surrounding the imagery, a long inscription in Greek, comprising a sentimental message that addresses a man: "Remember me, your dear sweetheart, and fare well, Sophronios."

In Roman art and literature, the ear-tweaking hand is a common motif, signifying a request for attention. Gems such as this were mementos of love, and were probably given as gifts. The knotted object is not common, but very likely it, too, was a symbol of remembrance, its purpose perhaps similar to the modern custom of tying a knot in a handkerchief so as not to forget something important.

This style of the lettering on this cameo indicates that it was made no earlier than the 400s A.D. The decorative mount into which the cameo is set is modern.

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  • Title: Cameo set into a mount
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: gem 5th century; mount modern
  • Location Created: Roman Empire
  • Physical Dimensions: 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Gem: agate; Mount: gold
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Object Type: Gem
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 2001.28.11
  • Inscription: "Remember me, your dear sweetheart, and fare well Sophronios."
  • Display Location: Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 212, Coins, Gems and Jewelry
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Roman
  • Classification: Jewelry