Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Cameo with Bust of Bearded Man

When a cameo is made, the surface of the gemstone is carved away, leaving the image raised in relief. This contrasts with the engraving of the image into the stone, the method used for signet rings. The raised image could not be used for creating stamped impressions, but cameos were set into jewelry and collected as luxury art objects. They became very popular in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. This portrait cameo is a fine example of the two-color type that was carved out of banded onyx. The laurel wreath indicates victory and the cloak has military connotations, suggesting that the subject might be a military leader. His curly hair and full beard are characteristic of Roman portraits of men during the second and third centuries AD.

Cameo with Bust of Bearded Man
Imperial period, 2nd–3rd century AD
H. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm), W. 1/2 in. (1.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Burton Y. Berry Collection, 66.35.9