The J. Paul Getty Museum

Cameo with Four Theater Masks set into a Mount

Object Details


Cameo with Four Theater Masks set into a Mount






gem 1st century; mount mid-19th century or later


Gem: sardonyx; mount: gold

Object Number:



2.9 cm (1 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

Carved on this cameo are two pairs of theatrical masks separated by a Greek inscription that reads: "Euripides," the name of the Athenian playwright. One pair of masks depicts the faces of two satyrs, male companions of Dionysos; they are old satyrs, bald-headed and snub-nosed, with their mouths open as if speaking. The other two masks are human faces. One is a narrow-faced, bearded man; the other is a broad-featured, bald, older man with a beard and a moustache, who wears a wreath.

Dramatic performances in ancient Greece and Rome divide into two basic categories: tragedy and comedy, plus the slapstick satyr-play. The satyr masks on this gem are emblematic of comedies and satyr-plays, and the masks of the men pertain to tragedies. Euripides was a writer of tragic drama; he lived in the fifth century B.C., and his works were performed throughout classical antiquity. Actors customarily wore masks, which apparently identified the types of characters portrayed in a play rather than specific roles.

The gold mount with a chain into which this cameo is set is modern.

by 1851

Bram Hertz, German, died 1865 (London, England), sold to Joseph Mayer.

1857 - 1859

Joseph Mayer, British, 1803 - 1886 [sold, The Celebrated and Well-known Collection....formed by B. Hertz, Sotheby's, London, February 7, 1859, lot 1378.]

- 1900

Constantine Alexander Ionides, Greek, 1833 - 1900 (London, England), [collection number 132] by inheritance to his son, Alexander Constantine Ionides, 1900.

1900 - 1931

Alexander Constantine Ionides, Greek, 1862 - 1931 (London, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1931.

1931 -

Heirs of Alexander Constantine Ionides, Greek, 1862 - 1931

by 1968

Lady Adam Gordon , great grand-daughter of Alexander Constantine Ionides (London, England)

- 2001

Mrs. Diana Scarisbrick, born 1928, sold through Oliver Forge (London, England) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.

Rome on the Grand Tour (January 8 to August 11, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 8 to August 11, 2002

Koner, W., et al. Catalogue of the Collection of Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Roman, Indian, Peruvian and Mexican Antiquities formed by B. Hertz. London: 1851, p. 81.

Sotheby's, London. Sale cat., Catalogue of the Celebrated and Well-known Collection of...Antiquities formed by B. Hertz. February 7, 1859, pp. xx and 99, lot 1378.

Furtwaengler, Adolf. Die antiken Gemmen: Gesichte der Steinschneidekunst in Klassischen. Leipzig: Geisecke & Devrient, 1900, vol. 1, pl. 50.54; vol. 2, p. 246, no. 54.

Boardman, John. Engraved Gems. The Ionides Collection (London: 1968), pp. 42, 101-2, no. 71, ill.

Boulter, Cedric G. "Reviewed Work: Engraved Gems: The Ionides Collection by John Boardman." The Classical Journal 64, no. 6 (1969), p. 283.

Kornbluth, Genevra Alisoun. Engraved Gems of the Carolingian Empire. (University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 1995), p. 83.

Boardman, John. The Marlborough Gems (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 138.