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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Bearded Man


Creator: Hellenistic (place of origin)
Creation Date: 
Bas-relief: 2nd-1st c. BC; Mount: late 18th c.
Materials and techniques: 
Sardonyx: white with brown highlights; open gold mount with quatrefoil reverse, suspension loop and ring
3.8 x 3.4 x 1.5 cm
G&J 2008 3
Acquirer: George III, King of the United Kingdom (1738-1820)
From the collection of Consul Joseph Smith of Venice; acquired by George III with the Consul’s paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and medals in 1762

Relief of the head of a bearded man, rendered almost wholly in the round but the left eye and cheek are drawn back close to the background. He wears a wreath, which appears to be composed of ears of wheat and perhaps leaves. The curly hair forms a curl on his broad forehead and is dressed in ringlets at the nape of his neck. The relief image is broken away from its background.

The exceptionally high relief suggests that this image may not be from an ordinary cameo but more likely from a larger object, possibly a vase. The head is Olympian but the comparatively short hair and beard are perhaps more suited to Asklepios, the God of Medicine, than Zeus, the mythological Greek king of the gods. The soft and sensitive cutting suggests a Hellenistic work of the 2nd-1st centuries BC.

Text adapted from Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, London, 2008

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Gems & Jewels