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Cameo Portraying Emperor Claudius as Jupiter

A work made of cameo: sardonyx
mount: gold, pearls, and enamel.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of cameo: sardonyx
mount: gold, pearls, and enamel.


Cameo: Roman, 41-54
Mount: Italian, late 16th century


Roman; Italy

About this artwork

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.


On View, Gallery 153


Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Roman


Cameo Portraying Emperor Claudius as Jupiter




41 CE–54 CE


Cameo: sardonyx Mount: gold, pearls, and enamel


7.6 × 5.7 × 0.8 cm (3 × 2 1/4 × 5/16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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