This gem has been carved with busts of the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis facing each other.

Isis wears a disc, horn and feather crown, and holds the rattle used in her cult. Serapis wears the modius (corn measure) expressing his role as guarantor of the fertility of Egypt. The cutting is extremely expert, and the hair, drapery and divine attributes are all executed with immense skill. The gem reflects Roman interest in Egyptian cults. The Ashmolean has a very fine collection of Greek and Roman engraved gems but this is the first example with confronted pairs of deities to enter the collection. The stone was mounted in a gold ring at a much later date.

Provenance

Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield; William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessbrough by 1761; 4th Ducke of Marlborough; by descent; Enys Family, 1899; Bonhams, 2008; Charles Ede Antiquities.


Ashmolean Museum

Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2PH
01865 278000
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Exhibitions at Ashmolean Museum

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