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Chalcedony gem showing Nike, goddess of Victory, and a trophy

 

Length: 3.300 cm
Width: 2.700 cm

Castellani Collection

GR 1865.7-12.86 (Gems 601)

Greece and Rome

    Chalcedony gem showing Nike, goddess of Victory, and a trophy

    Greek, about 350 BC

    Flawless carving of an elaborate scene

    This beautifully carved gem is a scaraboid - a simplified form derived from the Egyptian scarab. It is pierced lengthwise, and was originally mounted on a swivel ring.

    The gem is carved in intaglio, that is, the design is cut into the stone. It would produce a relief image if pressed against soft clay or wax. Such gems were used for sealing, the design acting as the 'signature' of the owner, but it is likely that they were also worn and treasured as ornaments in their own right.

    The carving shows the winged goddess Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory. She is arranging a trophy made up of captured arms from a vanquished enemy: a helmet, cuirass, sword, greave and two shields can clearly be seen, as well as a spear and pieces of drapery that may represent standards or banners. The goddess seems to be using a tree-stump as a support for the trophy. In reality such trophies were left as dedications in sanctuaries, given either to Nike or to the deity to whom the sanctuary belonged.

    The Greek letters 'ND' on the banner to the left of the scene may be an abbreviation of the engraver's or owner's name.

    T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)

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