The wreath of leaves and flowers on the head of the young man depicted on this gem is tied with ribbons, one of which falls down his neck and over one shoulder. Antinous, the Roman youth in this portrait, was the beloved companion of the emperor Hadrian. In A.D. 130 Antinous drowned in the Nile river; he was subsequently deified by Hadrian, and Antinous' popular cult spread throughout the Empire. The bust on this gem replicates a detail from a Roman relief sculpture showing Antinous as the personification of Spring. The relief, discovered in 1735 in the ruins of Hadrian's villa, is now in the Villa Albani in Rome.
The signature in Greek of the artist Pichler appears behind the bust of Antinous. The name was inscribed backwards so that it would be legible when the gem served as a seal and the design was stamped into a soft material such as wax. Pichler is the family name of four distinguished Italian craftsmen, working principally in Rome from about the 1780s to the 1850s. Gem-cutters like the Pichlers, who worked in the classical style, usually signed their names in Greek.