Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Hand Pinching an Ear Ring, 150-200CE

Intaglio Ring
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Engraved and carved gemstones have been  employed in jewels since ancient Greece in the 8th century BC and earlier. The art developed over time into cameos and intaglios. 

This Roman imperial intaglio depicts a hand, reaching out to pinch an ear, and would have been intended as a gift to a loved.  What exactly does this motif mean?  Historically, a hand pinching or touching an ear was meant to symbolize a stimulus to memory, thought to derive from the writings on natural history by Pliny the Elder.  It’s a fairly common theme in Roman gems, and the Greek inscription of “MNHM/O/NEYE” translates as “Remember.”

The intaglio is crafted from a translucent, deep-red carnelian.  It dates between 150-200 CE. 

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