Finger Ring with a Siren, Sphinx, and Hippocamp (Front)


The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

This gold ring has a solid hoop and a bezel in the form of an elliptical cartouche, which is framed by a hatched border and divided into three registers by hatched lines. Three mythological creatures facing left fill the registers, from top to bottom: a siren with her head turned back; a seated sphinx with its head turned back; and a hippocamp. All have one wing raised and the other lowered; the sphinx and lion have a tendril ornament on their heads, a traditional feature of Near Eastern and Orientalizing felines.

The cartouche-shaped ring form was especially popular in Etruria in the later 500s B.C., when immigrant Greek goldsmiths from Ionia introduced it. The choice of motifs and style of decoration on this ring are also found on objects in other media produced by these Ionian immigrant artists. In ancient Italy, sphinxes, winged lions, and hippocamps act as guardian sculptures outside tomb entrances; in myth and art, they conveyed the spirits of the deceased to the underworld. Although the choice of decorative motifs on cartouche rings includes animals, fantastic creatures, and occasional figural narratives in a variety of combinations, the funerary associations of this ring are evident and there is little trace of wear on the hoop. Most frequently found in the cemeteries at Vulci, Cerveteri, and other Etruscan sites, rings of this type are associated with female burials and were likely produced in a workshop in southern Etruria.

All Greek and Etruscan metal rings with engraved bezels ultimately derive from Egyptian and Phoenician prototypes. The influence is clearest on those rings with a long, straight-sided bezel with rounded ends. Artisans adapted the arrangement of the decoration into three rows, as well as the manufacturing technique of a separately attached bezel, from the Phoenicians.


  • Title: Finger Ring with a Siren, Sphinx, and Hippocamp (Front)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 550–500 B.C.
  • Location Created: Etruria; Magna Graecia
  • Physical Dimensions: 1.9 × 0.9 cm (3/4 × 3/8 in.)
  • Type: Ring
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Gold
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 85.AM.268
  • Culture: Etruscan
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Jewelry

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