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About This Artwork
Cameo Portraying Emperor Claudius as Jupiter, Cameo: Roman, AD 41/54
Mount: Italian, late 16th century
Mount: gold, pearls, and enamel
7.6 x 5.7 x 0.8 cm (3 x 2 1/4 x 5/16 in.)
Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf, 1991.375
Ancient and Byzantine Art
Not on Display
This exquisite cameo is thought to combine a portrait of the fourth Roman emperor, Claudius (r. AD 41–54), and the powerfully muscled body of Rome’s supreme deity, Jupiter. The figure is nude except for an aegis (protective garment) wrapped around his right thigh, modestly drawn across his body, and draped over his left arm. A laurel wreath is tied around his head. A long scepter rests against his left forearm, and he holds a thunderbolt in his right hand. An eagle watches him from the ground. The aegis, thunderbolt, and eagle are symbols of Jupiter; the scepter and laurel wreath are those of the imperial office. Conjoined, they identify the emperor as the father-god, Jupiter, the supreme deity of the Roman pantheon. A virtuoso gem engraver delicately coaxed his design from a single piece of sardonyx comprising three thin, horizontal layers of naturally occurring colors (golden brown, white, and a dark blue-gray, respectively). He painstakingly removed the extraneous stone in order to carve the low-relief figures of Claudius and the eagle against the dark background, retaining a sufficient amount of stone around the perimeter to create a beveled border from the opaque layers of white and brown.
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Martin D’Arcy Gallery of Art, Loyola University of Chicago, The Art of Jewelry 1450–1650: A Special Exhibition of Jewels and Jeweled Objects from Chicago Collections, Spring 1975, cat. 43 (ill.).
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Staatliche Museen zu Berlin im Alten Museum, Antikensammlung, Mythos und Macht: Erhabene Bilder in Edelstein, July 26, 2007–May 25, 2008 (cameo returned Feb. 18, 2008), no cat.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 152, November 11, 2012 - present.
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Marlborough Collection, Album of Photographs of the Gems (1875), p. 1, no. 4, available at http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/gems/marlborough/default.htm.
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