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Row i. Lioness and two deer, on a lenticular gem of remarkable size.
Row l. Two men leading a bull (haematite). The artist has only been able to express the man on the other side of the bull by placing him as if performing an acrobatic feat above it. The same arrangement occurs on a fresco of the Mycenaean period found by Dr. Schliemann at Tiryns.
Horse-headed monster (sard) standing between two men. These grotesque combinations frequently occur in Mycenaean art, particularly in this class of gems. Several examples may be found in the two compartments.
Case U 8. Examples of gem engraving in soft materials (usually steatite) from Melos, and other Greek islands.
These gems have the same "glandular' and `lenticular forms which mark the gems of the Mycenaean period. They are engraved however in soft substances, and have been found in company with early Greek inscriptions, vases, and terracottas of the historical period, say between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. The range of subjects is also different. Instead of the monstrous combinations peculiar to the earlier Mycenaean art, we have the forms adopted by Greek mythology, such as Pegasus, the Chimaera, the Gryphon, and the Centaur. As a rare example of a definite mythological subject see in row h (82) Heracles wrestling with Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea.
The class of Melian gems is of importance, since it preserves a continuity of form with the stones of the Mycenaean period, and thus supplies an undoubted link between the arts of the Mycenaean period and those of historical Greece.
Case U 9-12. The next oldest stage of gem engraving is to be seen in the Scarabs or stones which have one side carved in the form of a beetle, and the Scarabaeoids, which are approximately of beetle form. The origin of the use of the scarab must be sought in Egyptian theology, in which the Egyptian beetle rolling a ball of mud containing its eggs was emblematic of Kheper, the principle of creative power, and so the scarab became a sacred emblem and amulet. As a rule, the base of the Egyptian scarab had some simple hieroglyphic or other design, and hence it was adopted as a convenient form for an engraved stone by nations to whom the beetle had no religious significance. The Phoenicians employed both the scarab and its simplified form the scarabaeoid. The Etruscans used the scarab constantly, but not the scarabaeoid. The Greeks, on the other hand, made no great use of the scarab, while they favoured the scarabaeoid at the finest period.
Among the scarabs and scarabaeoids two classes are to be distinguished. The one bears designs in which the Egyptian and the Assyrian elements prevail over the Greek (Compartments 9, 10 a-c). These have been found for the most part in Phoenician colonies, and in regions where Phoenician commerce extended. The other (Compartments 10 d-12) has designs obtained from Greek
art. The scarabs of this class are mostly found in Etruria, and in many cases have Etruscan inscriptions. They are therefore presumed to have been made by Etruscan artists. The scarabaeoids are found in Greek sites, and in some instances signed by Greek artists.
Case U 9, rows a-d. Scarabaeoids and scarabs, showing Oriental influence.
Rows c, d. Several of the specimens in these rows are made of porcelain and glass, materials which were employed both by the Phoenicians and by the early Greek settlers in Egypt--as at Naucratis -- to imitate the scarabs of the Egyptians.
Rows e, f (left half). Gems of various periods, obtained in recent excavations at Curium and Amathus, in Cyprus.
Rows f (right half)-i. A large series of scarabs, from Tharros, in Sardinia, mostly engraved in green jasper. Tharros was a Phoenician colony, and its gems have the characteristic marks of the Phoenician style. Egyptian and Assyrian motives are freely borrowed and used for decorative purposes, with no reference to their original significance. Pure Greek motives also occur, however, such as (166) Heracles (row f) and (182) the warrior (row g), which make it probable that the gems of Tharros are comparatively late.
Case U 10, rows a-c and k. Series of gems from Tharros continued, with some from kindred sites.
Rows d-i, and Compartments 11-12. Etruscan scara bs. Here the Egyptian and Assyrian subjects no longer occur. Deities also are comparatively rare. The most frequent subjects are figures or groups derived from the heroic legends of Greece, while animal and athlete subjects are also common. An ornamental border, called a cable-border, usually surrounds the subject, but this was adopted by the Etruscans with the scarab form, since it also occurs on porcelain scarabs from Naucratis and Cameiros, and on the stones from Tharros. A second border, on the lower edge of the beetle, was added by the Etruscans. The materials used are generally sard, banded agate, or rock crystal. The best examples appear to date from the beginning of the fifth century B.C., and are characterised by great refinement in the execution, with a flat rendering of the figure which corresponds with the treatment of Greek bas-relief in marble of this period.
Row g. Selected specimens of heroic myths. (Beginning on the left.)
(278.) Perseus cutting off the head of the Gorgon Medusa. The Medusa-character is here only indicated by a snake, which she holds in one hand.
(276.) Heracles slaying the giant Kyknos with his club. The names are inscribed in Etruscan, and, as usual, only approximately resemble the Greek form, being written Herkle (compare the Latin Hercules) and Kukne.
(268.) Capaneus, one of the seven heroes who went against Thebes, putting on his armour.
(271.) Capaneus struck down by the thunderbolt. He had presumptuously challenged Zeus himself to stop him from taking Thebes, and was struck by the thunderbolt as he mounted his scaling-ladder.
(270.) Another of the same subject.
Case U 11. Etruscan scarabs (continued). Among the later scarabs there is a marked tendency towards greater roundness of the figures, and in the rougher specimens the figures are composed of little more than hemispherical, cup-like depressions hastily drilled out.
Case U 12. Rows c-g contain 'cut-scarabs'--that is, thin slices of stone with a cable border and intaglio design, such as might be found on the base of a scarab. In some cases the scarabs may have been cut down to accommodate them to a later system of mounting in rings, while other designs may have been engraved originally on a thin stone in imitation of the base of a scarab.
It is probable that some of the scarabs or cut-scarabs in Compartment 12 are late imitations of older work, dating perhaps from the close of the Roman Republic.
[The historical sequence is continued in the large central Case X with the Greek gems.]
Case U 13, 14. A selection of Graeco-Roman Intaglios, grouped according to their subjects. The series begins with Zeus (Jupiter) and myths connected with him, and continues with Poseidon (Neptune), Athenè, Hermes, Apollo and Muses, Artemis, Ares, Aphroditė, Eros (Cupid), Dionysos and Bacchanalian subjects, etc.
[Cases W and U 15–27. Mediaeval, Renaissance, and modern gems, etc., forming a part of the collections of the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities.]
Case U 28-33. Graeco-Roman intaglios (continued). The series begins on the right (in 33) with deities (continued from 14) and proceeds with legends and heroes, such as Medusa and Perseus, Bellerophon, Heracles, the Theban and Trojan cycles. These are followed by Roman legends, masks and dramatic subjects, subjects from life, ships, animals, devices, mottoes, etc.
Case X, in the centre of the room, contains the finest specimens of Greek and Roman gem-engraving. On the side nearest the door are the intaglios, which range from the sixth century B.c. down to the Roman Empire, classed in compartments :
Case X 39-40. Intaglios of the best Greek workmanship. Many of the gems in these two compartments are in the form of the scarabaeoid ; the scarab, which, as was pointed out above, is a form
that found little favour with the Greeks, occurs but seldom. In some stones, however, variety is given to the plain surface at the back of the scarabaeoid by some device in relief, such as the Satyric mask which occurs on the scarabaeoid (479) in Compartment 39, row c. On the face is engraved a lyre-player, and an inscription with the name of the artist who engraved the gem, probably to be read as Syries.
Case X 39, rows c, d, e, contain other examples of the finest Greek gems, among which the following are specially deserving of notice :
Row c. Scarab from Amathus (Cyprus) in a fine gold setting, mounted on a silver ring; Athenè with the spoils of Medusa, her head, wings and snakes.
Scarabaeoid from Greece ; a Satyr carrying a full wineskin on his back. A remarkably vivid piece of Greek work.
Scarabaeoid from the Punjab (India): Heracles, after the defeat of the Nemean lion, is offered water by the local Nymph. It is unknown how this early Greek work reached India, but it might well have been carried there in the army of Alexander.
Row d. (480.) A female head in broad and simple style, inscribed • Eos.
(481.) Head of a youth in a peaked hat. A work of great beauty in the same broad style.
Row e. An agate bead, flattened on one side, with a figure of a nude athlete twisting the thong of his caestus (a device to increase the effect of a boxer's blow) about his wrist.
(555.) A bead of burnt sard, shaped as the last with a seated youth playing on a triangular lyre.
It is to be noted that in the foregoing and other works of the fine Greek style the work is not conspicuously minute in detail. It is indeed less so than in some of the earlier gems. The treatment is broad and free, and calculated for the general effect of the work seen as a whole.
Case X 40. Greek gems (continued), including a series of large scarabaeoids, with figures of animals broadly and naturally worked. Note also :-
Row b. A girl writing on tablets.
Row d. (466.) A scarab with a wild goose flying ; very finely and delicately engraved.
Scarabaeoid, winged River-god ; an early work in a minute and formal manner.
Case X 41-43. Selected Graeco-Roman gems, produced by Greek engravers working in Rome towards the end of the Republic and in the first centuries of the Empire. The subjects are mainly mythological. The favourite material is the sard, in tints varying from pale yellow to orange red. Other stones used less frequently are the banded onyx, nicolo, amethyst, etc.
Case X 44-45 (except 44, row a). Gems which are signed, or purport to be signed, by ancient engravers.
Case X 15, row d. (1.256.) A fine head of the dying Medusa, with the name of Solon.
The gems which profess to be thus signed are very numerous, and in some cases (c.g., the scarabaeoid of Syries already mentioned, Compartment 39, row c) the authenticity of the signature is absolutely beyond dispute. In most signed gems, however, there is doubt and controversy with respect to the signatures, since the lamentable habit of adding the names of ancient artists to gems, in order to invest them with a fictitious value, is known to have prevailed from the Renaissance onwards, but especially during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For the convenience of students most of the signed gems in the collection have been brought together in these two compartments. In some examples, however, the signature must be regarded as a recent addition to an ancient engraving, while in others the whole work is equally suspect. Compare, for instance (Compartment 44, rowe), the fine blue beryl head of young Heracles with the name of Guaios and the crystal counterfeit beside it accurately imitating the fracture of the original.
For a further discussion of the authenticity of the several signatures, see the Catalogue of Engraved Gems.
Case X 46, 47. Portraits in intaglio. Among them the following are specially noteworthy :-
Case X 46, row b. An elderly man, nearly bald, and with a wart on his chin. An admirable piece of minute and vivid portraiture.
Row c. A portrait head, wearing the winged cap of Perseus, and set in its original rough iron setting.
Rowe. Two heads of Julius Caesar, with the name of Dioscorides, a known gem-engraver of the time of Augustus. The pale sard (1557) from the Payne-Knight collection is the finer of the two. The dark sard (1558) from the Blacas collection appears to be a replica, and the signature is illiterate in form.
Row f. (1587.) Head of Antonia (?) Compare the so-called • Clytiè' in the Third Graeco-Roman Room (p. 89).
Rows f, g. Forcible portraits, in the later Roman style, of Vespasian and (1606) Titus.
Case X 47. Row (. Vigorous portraits of (1627) Septimius Severus, (1632) Caracalla, and (1631) Trajan Decius. The last is still in its original iron setting.
Row d. Large amethyst. Bust of Constantius II.
Case X 48-56. In the opposite side of the case are the Cameos or gems in relief, belonging almost exclusively to the Roman period, and engraved on precious stones, consisting of layers of different colours, which the engravers have utilised to obtain rich and varied effects. As already mentioned, the Cameo is conplete in itself, while the Intaglio is primarily intended to serve as a seal. Hence the Cameos are of a larger size and more brilliant effect. It also follows that the figures are right-handed and the inscriptions are not reversed.
Case X 48. The subjects are mainly Bacchanalian, with figures of Satyrs, Maenads, Silenus, etc.
Case X 49. Bacchanalian subjects, figures of animals, etc. At the bottom is a roughly executed bust of Heracles, wearing the lion's mask, from the Punjab, in India.