C. W. (Charles William) King.

Handbook of engraved gems online

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companied by his dog, and spearing the Chimera engraved upon
the cheek-piece below ; all the figures, though on so mintite a
scale, being miracles of art, both for their drawing and their
finish. The horse-hair crest is carefully and naturally rendered
by means of the diamond-point alone. This helmet was at one
time believed to be the actual signet of King Pyrrlius, for what
reason it is imjiossible now to discover. On the dispersion of the
Poniatowsky Collection (1839), it fell into Hertz's hands, who is
said to have refused an offer of 150/. for it from the Due de Blacas.
At his own sale (Feb. 1859) it realised the very large sum, for
ihese times, of 89Z. It was afterwards sold to Sefior Arosarona, a
IMexican amateur, and is at present in his native country, but will
])robably (in accordance to the law that makes all rarities gravitate
towards London) reapi^ear some day in the English market. (This
projiliecy has l)Ocn verified : the gem is now, 1885, in London
seeking a lihcral purchaser.) Winckelmann describes another in
Stosch's Cabinet almost identical with this, botli as to design,
and, what is more singular, the species of the material. This
peculiar variety (Pliny's Jasponyx) seems to have been esteemed
l)y the artist as the most suitable veliicle for such representa-
tions of embossed metal-work ; for the Hertz Collecti(jn also boasted
of a second specimen engraved with a tall Corinthian Crater,


the sides decorated with Bacchic compositions, ahnost equal in
execution to the figures upon this Helmet. Curiously enough
Winckelmann has noted that the gems with helmets and vases in
imitation of Corinthian chasings, which occui*red in the Stosch
Cabinet, were all highly and carefully finished, and to be num-
bered amongst its choicest ornaments.

The original Poniatowsky Collection numbered, as before said,
no more than 154 pieces, but all of them both masterpieces as to
workmanship, and unquestioned as to antiquity. The Prince,
the last possessor, added, however, so many of his own fabrications
to these genuine treasures, as to swell it to the inordinate number
above mentioned. By this folly the whole cabinet was dis-
credited to that degree that, when brought to the hammer in
London in the year 1839, even the established reputation of the lo
was not proof against the infection of the bad company she had
been keeping ; and this matchless gem was actually knocked down
for 17Z., although a few years before it would undoubtedly have
realised lOOOZ. ; a sum known to have been paid for other works
made precious by their author's signature, yet falling infinitely
short of this both in historical and artistic value. Its purchaser
was Mr. Currie, domiciled at Como, who, on his decease in 1862,
bequeathed it Mdth the rest of his very important collection to the
Florentine Galleria ; thinking, and perhaps with justice, that his
own country was as yet incompetent to appreciate the value of
such a legacy :

"Ingi-ata patria, non liabcbis ossa mea ! "


It is strange that Pliny, previously so minute in describing the
works and in cataloguing the names of all statuaries, sculptors,
and metal-chasers, who had attained any celebrity either before or
during his own times, should have been so scanty in his notice of
gem-engravers ; yet this last class, one would have supposed, from
the passion of the greatest Romans, like Julius himself and Maecenas,
for their productions, would have then been enjoying a reputation
etpial to any ever gathered in the grander walks of art. But
Pliny, though often enthusiastic in his descrij^tion of precious
stones (for instance, of the opal) seems to have regarded the
whole subject treated of in Book xxxvii. of his ' Natural History '
more as a mineralogist and jeAveller, than as a connoisseur in the
Glyptic art. In fact, he only names, and that incidentally without


any notice of their works (xxxvii. -i), r;yTgoteles, for liis having
received the exclusive patent to engrave Alexander's portrait on
the emerald ; his successors, Apollonides and Cronius ; and lastly,
Dioscorides, for having executed a most accurate likeness of
Augustus (imagincm sumllime expressit) which was employed as the
Imperial signet by his successors. Not much more information on
this head is to be gleaned from other authors. Herodotus records
that Theodorus the Samian had executed " the signet set in gold
on the emerald stone," so highly valued by the over-prosperous
Polycrates, whose romantic legend has been already told. Since
the historian is thus particular as to the artist's name, we may
conclude that his far-spread reputation had given additional
value to the precious material his skill was exercised upon. The
date of this event was about the year B.C. 529. Again, we find
another native of the same island, Mnesarchis, mentioned by
Diogenes Laertius as a gem-engraver by trade, by Apuleius as the
head of his profession, though better known as being the father of
Pythagoras, and who consequently must have been practising the
art before B.C. 570, the date assigned for the philosopher's birth.

Next we meet with Nausias, an Athenian, described by Lysias
the orator in the customary abusive style of the Grecian Bar, as
carrying on three trades at once — of gem-polisher, engraver, and
debauchee (ryv re XiOovpyiKrjv kol XiOoTpijSiKrjv kol Trpos Toi;Tots to
T€Tpv(}irjKevai). It is truly unfortunate for the history of our subject,
that this oration should have entirely perished, except this single
paragraph. Its title, " Concerning the Seal," affords good grounds
for supposing that it concerned the forgery of a seal by this same
profligate Naiisias ; and its early date (about B.C. 400, Lysias being
a contemporary of Herodotus,) would have rendered every inci-
dental detail most instructive and interesting.

Satyreius must have been an engraver in considerable repute at
the court of the Ptolemies, to judge from the extravagant culogium
bestowed upon a work of his by Diodorus in an epigram extant in
the ' Anthology ' (ix. 776) :

" My grace and coloviring Zeuxis well iiiigbt claim,
Yet Satyreius is my author's name,
Who in the tiny crystal drew the form
Arsinoc's self, with life and beauty warm:
A grateful present ; though minute in size.
Its fair perfection with its model vies."

From the term used, SatSaXov, properly signifying a statue, it
follows that this " image of the Queen," in crystal, was not an


intaglio (for which, by tho way, the Greeks seldom used that stone),
but either a bust or a figure iu full relief: like the statuette of the
same queen in one single peridot, mentioned by Pliny as actually
executed on the first discoveiy of that (in those times) much-prized
gem. The "colouring of Zeuxis" is somewhat hard to apply to a
work in such a material, unless by a poetical hyperbole. Perhaps,
indeed, the bust was carved out of a pale amethyst, like certain
antiques yet extant, — notably the grand " Cleoj)atra " of the
Marlborough Cabinet, — in which case the allusion to the natural
roseate colouring would be quite admissible. Indeed, from the
connexion of time and persons, this Satyreius may be conjectured
to have been the author of the celebrated peridot statuette just
alluded to.

TrypJwn also must have possessed distinguished merit, and at a
mobt flourishing epoch of the art (as manifested by the excellence
of the contemporary Asiatic coinage), to have obtained such high
commendation from a tasteful poet like Addajus upon his intaglio
of the sea-nymph Galene * (Anth. ix. 544) : —

" Au Indian beryl erst, famed Tryphon's skill
Hath bent my stubborn nature to his will.
And taught me calm Galene's form to wear,
And spread with tender touch my flowing hair.
Mark how my lips float o'er the watery plain,
My swelling breasts to peace the winds constrain :
But for the envious stone that yet enslaves,
Thou'dst see me sport amid my native waves."

Addfeus was a favourite with King Polemo, himself an amateur
in gems, as he has testified by a couple of epigrams yet extant,
" On a jasper engraved with a herd of cattle." The monarch had
in early life been a rhetorician, but, having ingratiated himself
with M. Antony, the king-making Triumvir bestowed upon him
the crown of Pontus, a donation confirmed to him by Augustus.
The non-existence of the signatures of such court-engravers as
Satyreius and Tryphon (for the inscription on the Marlborough
cameo is a palpable modern insertion) tells strongly against the
credibility of their existence in later times : for there is no doubt

* Or Leucothea, the goddess of fair weather at sea. Her bust, cleaving the
waves, is very frequent upon gems, in the exact action described by the poet.
On this account it is usually miscalled Leander's : but in some examples the
exposure of the breasts above the waves sufficiently vindicates the claims of the
nymph to this embodiment, so apt a device for the signet of a mariner. It also
forms the type of a denarius of the Crepereia family ; the reverse, Neptune in
his car ruling the waves, tends to prove the same thing.



that in the times of independeut Greece, and Greek kings, gem-
engravers held the same rank as painters and statuaries. The
anecdotes about Alexander and Apelles, Demetrius Poliorcetes, and
Protogenes, prove that king and artist stood in tlie same relation to
each other as Francois I. and Da Vinci, or Charles V. and Titian.
The art of design, as Pliny has already informed us, had from the
first been regarded as a liberal profession amongst the Greeks,
there being a standing prohibition that no slave should ever be
instructed therein.


" As regards my son, I desire that he will keep, as a talisman, the Seal which
I used to wear attached to mv watch." — Will of Napoleon III.

Through the kind interposition of vay friend General Pearse, E.A., in
command at Woolwich during the years when the late Prince Imperial
was a cadet there, I most happily obtained an impression of this truly
historical seal.

" It is cut upon a gem [carnelian ?], octagonal, somewhat oblong, engraved
in modern Arabic in a neat character, with words translated, ' The slave
Abraham relying upon the Merciful' (God)." The First Consul (VOnde)
picked it up with his own hands, during the campaign in Egypt, and always
carried it about with him, as did his nephew afterwards. The Prince
Imperial also carried the seal upon a string fastened around his neck, in
obedience to the injunction of his father. At the time of his lamentable
death it must, therefore, have been carried off by the Zulus amongst the
other spoils when they stripped his body, and may still be preserved by them
as a trophy of their success. My object in giving it the most conspicuous
place amongst these illustrations is the hope that such publicity may
eventually lead to the recognition and recovery of so precious a relic;
which, considering the vicissitudes of Fortune with its successive owners,
deserves to be deposited on her altar side by side with the signet of
Polycrates. The drawing is made to double the size of the original, for the
purjTOse of rendering the inscription more easily legible, w-hich has also been
done with all the following illustrations, unless otherwise specified.*

My own collection has in the meantime been transferred to the New York
Museum of Art, and all the gems so quoted formed part of it. The Beverley
Gems have also been incorporated with the other antiquities at Alnwick Castle ;
although not described in the lately published Catalogue of that Museum.

* It has not been thought necessary to name any but the principal cabinets, out of
which the gems were selected ; as those then in private hands may have changed
owners repeatedly since the casts were taken.



Bc'lus seated on a throne ; to whom a priest is conducting a maiden : a
woman stands behind, in the attitude of adoration. The Aloo7i, seen over-
head, indicates the nocturnal hour, and explains the character of the
ceremony. The legend is said to contain the name of UruJch, one of the
earliest kings of Babylon; the "Orchamus" of Ovid. This cylinder,
figured here of the real size in its impression, was brought from Babylon by
Sir R. Ker Porter ; but its present owner is not known.

The examples given in the four plates following, except the few marked
otherwise, have been borrowed, through Mr. Layard's kind permission, from
his great work upon the antiquities of Nineveh.


1. Signet of Sennacherib. The king, standing imder a canopy, receives
the adoration of a subject. In the midst is placed the Tree of Life, above
which soars the jiersonification of Ormuzd. Green Amazon-stone. (Brit. Mus.)

2. Persian contending with a winged bull and a gryphon ; above him,
the protecting Deity. Legend in Phosnician, " Seal of Gedishmah, son of
Artidadt." (Brit. Mus.)

3. Woman worshipjiing Ishtar, Queen of Heaven, surrounded with the
moon and stars; in front sits the lion of Belus; behind is the antelope,
sacred to the goddess, browsing on a tree. (Layard.)

4. Persian king contending with two lions : typical of his irresistible
strength ; at the side a Magus, performing his sacred rites at a fire-altar.


1. Man adoring the Winged Bull, typical of Belus : overhead are seen the
sun, moon, and planets.

2. Deity standing before an altar, on wliich stands his attribute, a cock.

3. The King bestowing his benediction upon a kneeling suppliant. (Cone.)

4. The King, mace in hand, attended by a guard holding a torques, offering
his vows to the lunar deity.

5. Belus, elevated uyion his bull, between two figures of Kisroch.

6. A train of captives, with the soldiers guarding them.

7. The Ilom, Tree of Life, standmg between two gryphons.

8. Belus standing upon liis gryphons; Arduesher, the Giver of Waters,
upon her cow, to whom a man kneels in prayer.

9. Magus about to sacrifice at an altar ; before bini is elevated the symbol
of the Moon.



1. Sandon (Hercules) wrestling with the bull ; the Minotaur with the lion ;
an astrological composition.

2. The Horn, over which soars the Mir, Visible Presence of the Deity ; on
the one side stands Cannes, attended by a winged Genius ; on the other, a

3. Warrior in a triumphal car ; in front, the severed heads of his van-
quished foes.

4. Cow suckling her calf; overhead, an astral symbol. (Cone.)

5. Seated figure ; at her back, the planets. (Cone.)

6. The Horn, over which soars Sin, the Moon-god ; the king -nTestling
with two winged bulls.

7. Impression in terra-cotta of the seals of Sargon, and the contemporary
King of Egypt ; originally attached to some covenant between them,

8. Seated figure : before him are placed a goose and a tortoise, as offerings.


1. Man holding a knife ; legend in well-cut Babylonian cuneiform, not
yet read. Haematite. (Praun.)

2. Magus before a fire-altar ; Phoenician legend, iaterpreted by M. Levy,
" The Herald of the Sun." On the side of the cone, a man encountering
a lion-headed figure. Chalcedony. (Praun.)

3. Belus, seated, arrayed in a long Babylonish robe, to whom a worshipper
presents an antelope ; above is seen the Mir ; behind, two Genii, and two
women are carrying similar sacrifices. The Crux ansata in the god's hand
betrays an Egyptian influence upon this design. Hfematite. (New York.)

4. Gryphons and Bulls; underneath, a row of various deities, amongst
whom Mylitta is conspicuous.

5. The Fish-god Oannes, or Dagon.

6. The Horn ; above it, the great god Asshur, supported by two human-
headed bulls ; on each side stands a worshipper. The Phoenician legend,
and the peculiar neatness of the engraving, clearly indicate its origin.

7. The Worship of Mylitta.

8. Sphinx, recumbent, in the Persepolitan style. Mottled agate. (Praun.)

9. The dwarf Gigon bearing up a winged deity; on each side stands a
man in Persian dress, as distinguished from the Assyrian by the peculiar
manner in which it is pleated up the front.



1. Two Hunters, in hooded mantles, encountering, the one a lion, the
other a wild boar. Early Persian work, on a large chalcedony scarabajoid.


2. Another, iu the same style, material, and cabinet ; a Hunter spearing
a stag.

3. Bust of a king wearing the tiara; about his neck is sus]icnded the
royal signet : legend, " The attestation of Sapor, fire-priest of the Ilyraians,"
Carnclian. (Brit. Mus.)

4. Satrap, on horseback, in full attire ; legend, his name " Arinanes."
Amethyst. (Paris.)


1. Bust of Vahrahran KeiTnanshah, in front face : exactly agreeing with
his profile portrait on the famous Devonshire Amethyst. Deeply and
exquisitely engraved in carnelian. (General Pearse.)

2. Bust of a youthful Eajah, wearing a floral crown ; very well engraved,
but in a totally different style from the preceding, in chalcedony. Both these
gems were found buried together, and were bought at the same time by
General Pearse. The political connexion of the two personages is attested
by another intaglio, known to me, which bears the same two heads, but in
profile, and engraved in a poor Indo-Sassanian style. Hence we may safely
assume that the younger prince was the " Vitiaxa," or Satrap, of Bactria ;
and that these extraordinary gems were the "Great Seals" of his admi-

3. Parthian Kmg, wearing the national cidaris (leathern helmet) encircled
with the diadem, seated on a camp-stool; to whom a noble, also wearing the
cidaris, is jsresenting a massive torques. Neatly engraved in yellowish-
green chalcedony. (General Pearse.)

4. Siva, seated on the Sacred Bull, and holding in his four hands the
insignia of the God of Death — the trident, the roamal or strangling-cord, the
club, and the headsman's sword. The most ancient type of a Puranic deity
that has yet been discovered on a gem. Chalcedony. (General Pearse.)



1. Bust of a man, wearing a necklace of great pearls, and resting ujion a
row of flowers — an augury of happiness ; legend, "Piruz Shahpuhri " (Peroses,
son, or minister, of Sapor). Yellow sard. (Praun.)

2. A similar Bust and legend, borne up on fourfold wings, emblem of
deification. It is, therefore, the King's Ferouher, or genius: his "angel," as
the Jews termed it, who had got the idea froni their Pei'sian masters. Car-
buncle. (New York.)

3. Queen in full dress, holding the lotus-flower, like a goddess : at her side
the young Shah, distinguished by his diadem. "With her name " Almin-
dochti," the termination, like the" Infanta" of the Spaniards, bet nkens royalty.
Clialcedony seal. (Eastwood.)

4. Head of a King much resembling thejiortrnit of Vnlunlirnn Kermanshah,


an<l engraved in the excei^tionally fine style that seems confined to the limits
of his reign. Garnet. (Pulsky ; now Brit. Mus.)

5. Diademed bust of a Queen, with her name, " Rozehi." Eed agate.
(New York.)

6. Two ladies in Sassanian costume, in conversation together. If the emblem
in the field be meant for the cross, we have here a Nestorian type of the greet-
ing of Mary and Elizabeth. Sard. (New York.)

7. Elephant's head ; legend, " Masdaki Raja." Yellow sard. (New York.)

8. The Sacred Bull, emblem of Earth, recumbent. The legend seems to
read, " Chosroes." Garnet. (New York.)

9. This curious symbol, of frequent occurrence in gems, and sometimes
bearing the royal diadem attached to it, is usually supposed to be the
Standard of the Empire. Almandine. (New York.)



1. Head of a young Indo-Sassanian Rajah ; in front a star, to indicate his
rank ; behind, a Greek cross on a wreath to declare his religion. His name in
well-cut Pehlevi letters, "Kartir," occurs also on another gem now in the
New York Cabinet ; but is there attached to another portrait of the rc<i-ular
Sassanian type and of a much older man.

This most interesting memorial of the spread of early Christianity in Bactria
is engraved with superior excellence ujion a garnet, which was found, set as
a button, upon the jacket of an Afghan officer slain in the last war. It now
forms one of .the numerous exceptional rarities that enrich that unrivalled
treasury of Oriental Glyptics, the collection of General Pearse.

2. A most remarkable combination of symbols. The so-called " Royal
Ensign," or Buddhistic figure, to be seen on the tiara of Varanes IV. or
placed singly on numerous gems ; by its side a hand, holding up a long Latin
cross. We have here a memorial of the Nestorians, to whom the jealous pride
of Perozes afforded an asylum from the persecution of his orthodox rival, " the
Byzantine emperor." The union of the two symbols was evidently intended
to mark the princely birth of this courageous professor of Christianity ; and
if the legend is rightly read as " Hormasdai " {Ahoramazdi), we are reminded
that a prince of that name was a refugee at the court of Constantius and of
Julian from the tyranny of Sapor II. This garnet, found at Merv, passed
from the collection of M. de Gobineau, formerly French Minister at Teheran,
into that of Mr. S. S. Lewis, out of which it was " conveyed, the wise it call "
during the detention of the case containing it at the custom-house of
Constantinople, in December 1883. Such discrimination in the choice of
plunder is so far sui:)erior to the honest dulness of a " True Believer " as to
point to the refined rascality of the straitest sect of the " Oriental Church."
The gem has probably ere this found its way back to Paris ; and by
publishing this minute description of it and its vicissitudes, I hope that some
uawished-for light may be thrown upon the ch-cumstauces of its mysterious


3. Head, in a peaii-bordered tiara, with busliy hair curling on the slioulders,
much resembling the portrait of Khosru Parviz upon the coins. Tlie legend
(not deciphered) is in the latest Pehlevi character, fast approaching the Cufic :
which latter took its name from Cufa, a town famed for calligraphers at the
time of the Arab conquest, where the Koran was first transcribed out of the
original Himyaritic MSS. Chalcedony. (New York.)

4. Euby found in the ruins of Brahminabad Scinde, engraved in Cufic
with " Ali ibu Hassan : " a fine example of work in so hard a material.



The tablet, serving for a pendant jewel, is of terra-cotta, coated with blue
vitreous glaze, the " artificial cyanus " of Thcophrastus. The two scaraba3i
are cut out of dark-green jasper, or more frequently moulded in the same
material as the tablet. Of the signet, the gold swivel, on account of its
magnitude and value, is supposed to have belonged to royalty ; the others are
examples of the forms most generally in use under the Pharaohs. All are
drawn to the actual size.


1. Isis, crowned with the lotus and bearing the sceptre. A pretty intaglio,
of Ptolemaic date ; in sardonyx. (Muirhead.)

2. Tablet in yellow jasper ; bearing on one side the apis, on the other a
horse. The cartouche contains the name of a very early king. (Brit. Mus.)

3. Late Egyptian talisman of Alexandrine manufacture; red jasper. The
Abraxas-god, in a threatening attitude, as he is always rei)resented, busy in
his office of scaring away all evil spirits; legend in the field, EVIA, "The
Serpent " {Syriac). Keverse : the Cnuphis Serpent, surrounded by groups
of the sacred animals. This, the finest specimen of a so-called Gnostic stone
that has ever come to my knowledge (here drawn of the actual size), was
brought from Bombay, and is now in the cabinet of Mr, S. S. Lewis, Fellow
of Cor])US Christi College, Cambridge.

4. This lion-headed serpent, CnuplHS,?i sigil prescribed by King Nechepsos
for protection of the chest, is cut in a piece of veritable jade. (Same cabinet.)



1. The Ahrao:as-f^iM\ in the car of Plirplius ; thereby identified with the
solar power. Legend, " Sabao " for " Sabaoth."

la. Iveverse, within the coiled serpent, emblem of eternity, " lao Abraxas."
Green jasper. (Bosanquet.)

2. The Ahraxas-^oHL ; engraved wilh unusual spirit and neatness. Green
jasper. (New York.)


3. The same, but with the ass's head of Typhon. A unique personification.

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