The J. Paul Getty Museum

Engraved Scarab with a Warrior Holding a Head

Object Details


Engraved Scarab with a Warrior Holding a Head






Etruria (Place Created)


400–375 B.C.


Banded brown and white agate

Object Number:



1.1 × 0.9 × 1.7 cm (7/16 × 5/16 × 5/8 in.)

See more

See less

Object Description

A helmeted warrior carrying a spear with his cloak thrown over his shoulder holds up a severed head, still dripping blood. The decapitated body of his enemy lies at his feet. The scene was probably drawn from the Greek myth of the Seven against Thebes. In the battle for the city, Tydeus killed Melanippos, one of the Theban defenders, but was himself mortally wounded. As he lay dying, he asked Amphiaraos to bring him the head of his opponent. Although described in Greek myth, the mutilation of the dead enemy rarely appears in Greek art--except for Achilles dragging the body of Hektor, where it is a sign of his madness. The Etruscans, however, commonly depicted such scenes. Scarabs were introduced to Etruria in the later 500s B.C., first through Greek imports and then through emigrant Greek artists. In this period many Ionian artists, including gem carvers, fled Persian aggression in their homeland. Some went to Etruria, which was a stable and wealthy region. In Etruria the jewelry aspect of the scarab was emphasized: the beetle sits on a decorated plinth, and its anatomy is carved in detail, usually with incised winglets and stippled heads. The scarab form remained popular into the late 400s and 300s B.C. in Etruria, long after it had gone out of style in Greece.

1877 - 1887

Heirs of Anselme-Alphonse Crignon de Montigny, French, [sold, Hotel Drouot, Paris, May 23-25, 1887, lot 176, to William Talbot Ready.]

1887 - 1888

William Talbot Ready, English, 1857 - 1914, sold to James Carnegie, 1888.

1888 - 1905

James Carnegie, 9th earl of Southesk, Scottish, 1827 - 1905, by inheritance to his heirs, 1905.

1905 - still in 1908

Heirs of James Carnegie, 9th earl of Southesk, Scottish, 1827 - 1905

- 1969

Colonel Ralph Andrew Harari, Egyptian, 1893 - 1969, by inheritance to his heirs, 1969.

1969 - 1975

Heirs of Colonel Ralph Andrew Harari, Egyptian, 1893 - 1969, sold to S. J. Phillips Ltd., 1975.

1975 - still in 1977
by 1987 - 1992

Ariadne Galleries, Inc., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992.

The Ralph Harari Collection of Finger Rings (June 9 to 18, 1976)
  • S. J. Phillips, Ltd. (London), June 9 to June 18, 1976

Froehner, Wilhelm. Collection de M. de Montigny, Pierres gravees. Vente 23-25 mai, 1887 (1887), no. 176.

Furtwaengler, Adolf. Die antiken Gemmen: Gesichte der Steinschneidekunst in Klassischen. Leipzig: Geisecke & Devrient, 1900, pl. 20.21.

Carnegie, Lady Helena, ed. Catalogue of the Collection of Antique Gems formed by James, Ninth Earl of Southesk (London: B. Quaritch, 1908), no. A 6.

Zazoff, Peter. Etruskische Skarabaen. (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1968), p. 187, no. 1108.

The Ralph Harari Collection of Finger Rings: Published on the Occasion of an Exhibition, June 9-11, 14-18 1976, exh. cat. (London: S. J. Phillips, 1976), p. 7, no. 25.

Boardman, John, and Diana Scarisbrick. The Ralph Harari Collection of Finger Rings (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), p. 22, cat. 25.

Spier, Jeffrey. Ancient Gems and Finger Rings: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1992), pp. 68-69, no. 140.

"Acquisitions/1992." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 21 (1993), p. 110, no. 15.

Giudice, Elvia. “Dolone fatto a pezzi.” Ostraka. Rivista di antichita 16: 1 (2007), pp. 183-194, p. 187, fig. 4.

Moreno, Alfonso. "The Greek Gem: A Token of Recognition." In Performance, Iconography, Reception: Studies in Honour of Oliver Taplin, Revermann M. and Wilson P., eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 431-2, fig. 18.5e.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 137.