• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1914

    Ancient Jewelry

    6 December 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 342

    A LATE ROMAN AGATE CAMEO

    CIRCA 5TH CENTURY A.D.

    Price Realised  

    A LATE ROMAN AGATE CAMEO
    CIRCA 5TH CENTURY A.D.
    The oval stone carved in two layers, white on dark brown, with a hand tweaking an ear, a knotted diadem and a Greek inscription above reading "Remember me," enclosed within a plain border
    15/16 in. (2.3 cm.) long


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    According to Boardman (Engraved Gems, The Ionides Collection, p. 43) "a hand tweaking an ear is a common gesture to request attention and recollection in Roman art and literature. A god pulls Virgil's ear to recall him to his duty of writing pastoral poetry rather than of kings and wars - Cynthia aurem vellit [Eclogues, vi 3-4]. On no. 79 [in the Ionides Collection] the gesture is accompanied by a lengthier inscription than most, 'Remember me, your dear sweetheart, and fare well Sophronios'. Gems like this might serve as pledges, given to dear ones going [on] a journey, to a husband or lover away on military service. A very similar stone in London with the same representation asks, 'Remember me, your love, wherever you are', while on others without the hand and ear we read, 'They say what they like. Let them talk. I do not care. Kiss me; you'll like it!'. The lettering on these gems, cut in very shallow relief, suggests a date no earlier than the fifth century AD. The other object shown on our gem may be a knotted diadem. Knots too have a magical significance, as well as being aids to remembrance, nowadays effected in handkerchiefs."

    Provenance

    European Private Collection, acquired in the late 19th-early 20th century.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN GENTLEMAN