Classical Revival Intaglio depicting the Greek Goddess Athena

SKU FJ.5316

1700 AD to 1900 AD


1.5″ (3.8cm) high





Gallery Location



Mounted in a stunning 18 karat gold pendant.

Gem engraving is a miniaturistic art form whereby designs are cut into or on the surface of a gem. Intaglios, gemstones with an incised design below the surface of the gem, were made as early as the fourth and third millennia B.C. In Mesopotamia and the Aegean. However, it was in ancient Greece and Rome that the expressive and aesthetic language of gem engraving was truly born. The classic artisans carried engraving to an artistic level higher than ever seen before, borrowing their diverse themes from epic poetry and famous legends of gods and heroes.

In this stunning red jasper intaglio, created during the classical revival period, we see the continuing classic glyptic tradition of exceptional artistry and beauty in the depiction of the bust of the Greek deity Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, known to the Romans as Minerva. Athena was the daughter of Zeus, king of the gods. According to myth, her father was suffering from an enormous headache and summoned Hephaistion the blacksmith god to split open his head and relieve the pain. When Hephaistion brought his hammer down on Zeus' skull, Athena jumped forth fully-grown and wearing a suit of armor. Although important to all the Greek people, Athena’s chief cult was at Athens, the city named for her. Legend has it that she had a contest with Poseidon, god of the sea, for control of the town. It was decided that whichever god gave the most valuable gift to the city would become its patron. Poseidon struck the earth with his trident and a salt spring came forth; Athena produced the olive tree, source of ancient Athens’s greatest commercial power and thereby won the contest. The scenes of her birth and the contest were portrayed on the pediments of the Parthenon, the temple erected in her honor on the acropolis of Athens in the 5th century B.C. The temple also housed an enormous cult statue of the goddess made from gold and ivory, which showed Athena fully armed with helmet, spear and shield.

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