Roman intaglio engraved with Serapis and Isis

December 21, 2021


After yesterday's rather violent image of a man and a woman, today's post differs both in scale and atmosphere: a carnelian intaglio carved with the busts of a pair of Egyptian gods from the Roman period. The male is Serapis, a solar deity associated with plenitude, fertility, healing and the afterlife; the female is Isis, perhaps the most important of the Egyptian goddesses, who was associated with maternity, nurturing and health, aspects that were later given by Christians to the iconography of the virgin Mary.

The gemstone was once in the famed Marlborough collection and is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

Roman intaglio engraved with Serapis and Isis, 1st-2nd century AD
Diameter 2.2cm

Fine Roman carnelian intaglio, the oval gem engraved with two confronted profile heads of Serapis and Isis, Isis on the left wearing a stylised horned crown and holding a sistrum, bearded Serapis on the right wearing a low modius on his curling hair, set in a gold ring.

Marlborough Collection 1899
Thence the property of the Enys Family, Enys, near Falmouth, Cornwall

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