The J. Paul Getty Museum

Cameo Gem

Object Details

Title:

Cameo Gem

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

Roman

Place:

Roman Empire (Place Created)

Date:

1st–3rd century A.D.

Medium:

Sardonyx

Object Number:

86.AN.739

Dimensions:

2.3 × 1.4 × 1.1 cm (7/8 × 9/16 × 7/16 in.)

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Object Description

A lion reclines, resting his head on his forelegs. The thick, shaggy mane sets off the beast's head from the smooth fur of the body. Roman cameo gems frequently depicted animals. Although lions were well known to Romans from spectacles and circuses, the portrayal of a lion on a cameo probably had a symbolic meaning, perhaps emphasizing strength and fortitude.

Cameos, gems with motifs carved in relief, were introduced in the Hellenistic period, but only became popular in the Roman era. Carved from layered, colored stones, most cameos display the decoration in a lighter layer against a dark background, as seen here, where the bluish-white lion contrasts with the brown background. Small cameos were often set into rings.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1986

Robert Haber (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986.

Bibliography
Bibliography

"Acquisitions/1986." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 15 (1987), p. 166, no. 24.

Spier, Jeffrey. Ancient Gems and Finger Rings: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992), pp. 159-60, no. 440.