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Details
A ROMAN ONYX RINGSTONE WITH THE OLYMPIANS
CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
Gem: 1 in. (2.3 cm.) long; Hoop: .15/16 in. (2.3 cm.) long
Provenance
Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965), Rome, acquired and brought to Switzerland, late 1930s; thence by continuous descent to the current owners.
Literature
G.G. Pappadopoulos, Perigraphe ektypomaton archaion sphragidolithon anekdoton, Athens, 1855, pp. 29-30, no. 557.
J. Boardman and C. Wagner, Masterpieces in Miniature: Engraved Gems from Prehistory to the Present, London, 2018, p. 197, no. 183.

Lot Essay

On one side of this unusual gem is an assembly of the Olympian gods. In the center is Jupiter enthroned, holding a scepter. Before him stand Juno offering a dish, Neptune, Mercury, and Mars, and behind him stand Minerva in a helmet, holding a spear and shield, Sol, Luna with a crescent headdress, and Diana. Jupiter's eagle stands below on a thunderbolt. The eagle is framed by an inscription AVA CVIH. The letters read correctly when viewed directly on the stone rather than in the impression, indicating that this gem was amuletic rather than for use as a seal. On the reverse is a celestial scene including Pisces (two fish) and Cancer (with a studded oval body with claws), two spheres, perhaps the sun and moon, and a number of stars, all linked by arcs. Below is the inscription K NAH. Pappadopoulos (op. cit., pp. 29-30) thought the celestial scene 17th century or later and he may well be correct, as no parallel from the Roman period can be identified. The gem is set in a gold swivel mount of the early 19th century. For related zodiacal scenes in Roman art, see H.G. Gundel, Zodiakos, Tierkreisbilder im Altertum.

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