Getty Museum Acquisition – Ancient Engraved Gem Collection

Gem 1
View-Getty-Villa-from-Courtyard-Garden-with-Sculpture

Getty Villa; view from courtyard garden with sculpture

The J. Paul Getty Museum (The Getty Villa) has announced they have acquired at auction, early in May 2019, a group of seventeen ancient engraved gems, comprising some of the finest classical gems in the world still in private hands.

Known as the Sangiorgi Gems, they have been named for Roman art dealer Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965) who was responsible for bringing them together from other collections.

Gem 1A

Detail; Marlborough Antinous – A Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait of Antinous, circa 130-138 A.D., courtesy J.Paul Getty Museum

Containing Greek gems of the Minoan, Archaic and Classical periods, as well as Etruscan and Roman gems, some remain in their original gold rings, this is a stunning appropriation.

“The acquisition of these gems represents the most important enhancement to the Getty Villa’s collection in over a decade and brings into the Getty’s collection” … some very famous works, explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum …“… and many lesser-known works of exceptional skill and beauty that together raise the status of our collection to a new level” he said.

Gem 4

A Minoan Blue Chalcedony Tabloid Seal with Three Swans Late Palace Period, circa 16th century B.C., courtesy J.Paul Getty Museum

Three Swans on a Bronze Age seal from Crete, exudes both elegance and charm. It has a very early date c.1600 B.C.

A Greek Mottled Red Jasper Scaraboid with Perseus, Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C., courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum

A Greek Mottled Red Jasper Scaraboid with Perseus, Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C., courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum

The image of Perseus, a son of the Greek God Zeus, renowned or saving Andromeda from death, is a marvel of minute naturalism, one that will not fail to enthral visitors.

Gem 1B

Marlborough Antinous – A Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait of Antinous, circa 130-138 A.D., courtesy J.Paul Getty Museum

Highlights include two of the greatest known of all ancient gems: Roman intaglio portrait of Antinous, superbly engraved in black chalcedony circa 130-138 A.D., and a Roman amethyst ringstone with a portrait of Demosthenes, signed by the artist Dioskourides, circa late 1st century B.C.

Antinous, the young lover of the Emperor Hadrian (ruled 117-138 A.D.), is depicted in the guise of a hunter, with a cloak over his shoulders pinned in place by a circular fibula.

He carries a spear and his idealized profile features a rounded chin, full lips and thick hair arranged in luscious curls that cover his ears and fall along his neck.

The extraordinary quality of this engraving has led many to proclaim this is indeed, the finest surviving portrait of Antinous in existence in any medium. It is also one of the finest classical gems to have survived since antiquity. Known as the Marlborough Antinous, its provenance makes it even more valuable.

Gem 1It has been passed through many distinguished collections since its rediscovery, including Venetian collector Anton Maria Zanetti (1679-1767) and great-great-great grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill, George Spencer (1739-1817), the 4th Duke of Marlborough, who wrote it was “of an incredible beauty.”

It was sold at auction in 1875 and again separately in 1899 to British barrister, author, gemmologist, fencer, and yachtsman Charles Newton Robinson, whose collection was in turn dispersed at auction ten years later. Sangiorgi who considered it an “excellent work of courtly art comparable with the most celebrated portraits of Antinous….” acquired it at auction in 1952 at London.

Gem 2

Portrait of Demosthenes – A Roman Amethyst Ringstone with a Portrait of Demosthenes signed by Dioskourides, circa late 1st century B.C., courtesy J.Paul Getty Museum

The portrait of 4th century B.C. Greek orator Demosthenes, is the other great masterpiece of the Sangiorgi Collection.

It is of the type known as intaglio; ornamentation with a figure or design sunk below the surface.

Signed by gem engraver Dioskourides, mentioned by ancient writers as gem engraver to the emperor Augustus (ruled 27 BC-AD 14).

The image is so deeply carved, the impression stands out in unusually high relief, reading more like a statue in the round.

Demosthenes wears a mantle over one shoulder and turns his head slightly to one side.

He is shown bearded, with a full moustache framing his lips. His brows are knitted, his forehead creased, giving him a seriousness of expression its renown has only increased over time, especially from when it was viewed by Grand Tourists of the eighteenth century.

Let’s hope they put them all on display soon.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019

List of gems Acquired: Sangiorgi Gems

A Minoan Blue Chalcedony Tabloid Seal with Three Swans
Late Palace Period, circa 16th century B.C.

A Greek Carnelian Scarab with a Nude Archer
Archaic Period, circa early 5th century B.C.

A Greek Banded Agate Scaraboid with a Warrior
Late Archaic Period, circa 475 B.C.

A Greek Mottled Yellow Jasper Scaraboid with a Grasshopper
Attributed to Dexamenos or a close follower
Classical Period, circa late 5th century B.C.

A Greek Gold Finger Ring with Herakles
Classical Period, circa late 5th-early 4th century B.C.

A Greek Mottled Red Jasper Scaraboid with Perseus
Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C.

A Greek Gold and Carnelian Scarab Swivel Ring with Crouching Aphrodite
Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C.

A Greek Carnelian Scaraboid with Protesilaos on the prow of a warship
Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C.

A Greco-Persian Banded Agate Scaraboid with a Greek-Persian Combat Scene
circa mid 5th century B.C.

An Etruscan Carnelian Scarab with the Rape of Cassandra
circa mid 5th century B.C.

An Etruscan Gold and Carnelian Scarab Finger Ring with Aplu/Apollo
circa 4th century B.C.

An Etruscan Gold and Banded Agate Scarab Finger Ring with Hercle/Herakles
circa early 4th century B.C.

A Roman Carnelian Ringstone with a Portrait of Octavian
circa mid-1st century B.C.

A Roman Carnelian Ringstone with the Aeneas and Anchises Escaping from Troy
circa late 1st century B.C.

A Roman Amethyst Ringstone with a Portrait of Demosthenes
signed by Dioskourides, circa late 1st century B.C.

A Roman Sardonyx Cameo of Isis
circa 1st century B.C.-1st century A.D.

A Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait of Antinous
circa 130-138 A.D.

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