Engraved Scaraboid with Aphrodite Riding a Goose (Front, impression 10/96 PHTG.)


The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

A goose flies to the right, carrying a woman on its back on this engraved scaraboid gem. She sits in three-quarter profile facing left, clasping the goose by the neck with her left hand and holding her dress above her head like a sail with her right. Her feet are bare and her legs draped; her hair is pulled back from her face in a chignon.

Nereids are sometimes shown holding their mantles like this when riding sea-creatures; so too is Aura, the personification of Breeze. It is, however, most probable that the woman shown on this gem is the goddess, Aphrodite, who is frequently depicted riding on the back of a swan or goose with her mantle raised in this way, suggesting she might be in the process of undressing.

A scaraboid is a simplified scarab, with a plain curved back and an intaglio design decorating the flat underside. The form gradually replaced the scarab in Greece in the 400s B.C. Like scarabs, they were typically pierced and worn either as a ring or pendant. When attached to a metal hoop and worn as a ring, the curved side faced out and the intaglio surface rested against the finger. When needed as a seal, the ring was removed, the gem swiveled, and the intaglio design was pressed into soft clay or wax to identify and secure property.


  • Title: Engraved Scaraboid with Aphrodite Riding a Goose (Front, impression 10/96 PHTG.)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: about 400 B.C.
  • Physical Dimensions: 1.1 × 2.7 × 2.1 cm (7/16 × 1 1/16 × 13/16 in.)
  • Type: Gem
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Blue chalcedony
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 81.AN.76.36
  • Culture: Greek
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Jewelry

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