Engraved Gem

Object Details


Engraved Gem


Attributed to Solon (active 70 - 20)


Roman, Modern


Europe Roman Empire (Place created)


30 - 20 B.C.


Amethyst in a modern gold mount


3.3 x 3 cm (1 5/16 x 1 3/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman

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With his wavy hair cascading over a headband, the face of Apollo--the god of youth, music, and prophecy--is carved into the surface of this large amethyst. His portrait is presented in full profile. Apollo's features are idealized, as was typical in art of the early Roman Empire: a square face with broad cheeks, a round chin, and a remarkably straight nose.

Although this gem closely resembles other images of Apollo, scholars believe the artist, probably Solon, intended this as an idealized portrait not of the god, but of the Roman emperor Augustus. Roman emperors revered individual gods, and Augustus's patron god was Apollo. Augustus believed Apollo secured victory for his forces in the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C: Solon carved other images of Augustus and members of the Imperial family in the guise of deities.

Look closely and you will notice that the image is carved into the gem--a technique known as intaglio--to create a sense of depth. A Neoclassical gold mount was added to the gem sometime during the late 1700s or early 1800s.

by 1903 -

Comtesse Martine-Marie-Pol de Béhague, French, 1870 - 1939 (Paris, France)

- 1990

Jean-Luc Chalmin (Pfaffhausen, Switzerland), by gift to Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, 1990.

1990 - 1996

Barbara Fleischman

and Lawrence Fleischman, American, 1925 - 1997 (New York, New York), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

Classical Connections: The Enduring Influence of Greek and Roman Art (December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008
Carvers and Collectors: The Lasting Allure of Ancient Gems (March 19 to September 7, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, (Malibu), March 19 to September 7, 2009

Burlington Fine Arts Club, London. Exhibition of Greek Art. (Section on gems by C. Newton Robinson.) 1904. p. 247, case O, no. 62, Comtesse de Bearn coll.

Spier, Jeffrey. "Two Hellenistic Gems Rediscovered," Antike Kunst 34, 2 (1991), pp. 91-96. pl. 10, 6-7.

True, Marion, and Kenneth Hamma, eds. A Passion For Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1994. p. 356, cat. no. 271.

"Museum Acquisitions Between July 1, 1996, and June 30, 1998." The Report of the J. Paul Getty Trust, 1997-1998. p. 69.