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HOME : Intaglio Jewelry : Archive : Roman Carnelian Intaglio of a Biga Drawn by Birds
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Roman Carnelian Intaglio of a Biga Drawn by Birds - FJ.6801
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD

Medium: Carnelian-Gold

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: United States
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This Genuine Ancient Seal Has Been Set in a Modern 18 Karat Gold Ring

The art of glyptics, or carving on colored precious stones, is probably one of the oldest known to humanity. Intaglios, gems with an incised design, were made as early as the fourth and third millennia B.C. in Mesopotamia and the Aegean Islands. They exhibit a virtuosity of execution that suggests an old and stable tradition rooted in the earliest centuries. The tools required for carving gems were simple: a wheel with a belt- drive and a set of drills. Abrasives were necessary since the minerals used were too hard for a metal edge. A special difficulty of engraving intaglios, aside from their miniature size, was that the lapidary master had to work with a mirror- image in mind.

Although the beast of burden we generally associate with chariots is the horse, this was not always the case. The two birds that pull the biga (a chariot drawn by two animals) engraved on this seal are not just impractical, but quite fantastical. Yet, mythology often veers into the realm of fantasy. Winged horses called Pegasi towed the chariot of the sun god Apollo while the sea god Neptune rode in a chariot pulled by sea horses. These birds might be pheasants or perhaps mighty eagles, symbol of Jupiter, king of the gods. A relatively small driver holds the reigns in one hands and a whip in the other. In antiquity, such an intaglio might have been given to a champion charioteer by the emperor or another wealthy admiring fan. During the Ancient Roman Empire, the popularity and wealth of chariot drivers was equal to that of professional athletes today. Surely this seal, depicting a biga pulled by the eagles of Jupiter would have made a fitting present for a driver. Today, this seal, mounted in a gorgeous gold ring, is a potent symbol of success. We should all be so lucky to have paths drawn by the strength of the eagles of Jupiter.
- (FJ.6801)


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