Cameo Portraying Emperor Claudius as Jupiter

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

Image actions

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

Date:

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

Artist:

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

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 153

Culture

Ancient Roman

Title

Cameo Portraying Emperor Claudius as Jupiter

Origin

Italy

Date

41 AD–54 AD

Medium

Cameo: sardonyx Mount: gold, pearls, and enamel

Dimensions

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

Credit Line

Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf

Reference Number

1991.375

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 .

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share