Carnelian Intaglio depicting an Empress or Goddess

SKU FJ.6430
Circa

1700 AD to 1800 AD

Medium

Carnelian

Origin

Europe

Gallery Location

USA


 

This intaglio is set in an 18 karat gold ring

The art of glyptics, or carving on colored precious stones, is probably one of the oldest known to humanity. Intaglios, gems with an incised design, were made as early as the fourth and third millennia BC in Mesopotamia and Aegean Islands. They display a virtuosity of execution that suggests an old and stable tradition rooted in the earliest centuries. The tools required for carving gems were simple: a wheel with a belt-drive and a set of drills. Abrasives were necessary since the minerals used were too hard for a metal edge. A special difficulty of engraving intaglios, aside from their miniature size, was that the master had to work with a mirror-image in mind.

When the revitalization of interest in classical studies swept through the wealthy classes of the eighteenth century, artists and engravers went on pilgrimages in the name of art to study in Rome. They made exhaustive studies of ancient coins and statuary searching for suitable models for their intaglio engravings. The lovely head of this woman no doubt comes from such a source, bearing a marked resemblance to the empress Julia Domna (wife of emperor Septimius Severus A.D.193-211), as seen on her coinage. She may in fact be a goddess, for to the ancient Romans great empresses and deities were often one and the same person after deification. The engraving is particularly fine, with her handsome profile, elaborate coiffure and very delicate strand of hair, or perhaps a long earring, hanging straight down to the middle of her neck. Seeing this intaglio, it is no wonder aristocrats and noblemen took such delight in their intaglio rings.

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