Gemma Augustea by flavia49 ()
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The Gemma Augustea is a low-relief cameo-engraved gem cut from a double-layered Arabian onyx stone. The size of the gem also made for easier manipulation and a grander scene. It stands 7.5 inches (190 mm) tall with a width of 9 inches (230 mm) and an average thickness of 0.5 inches (13 mm). The gem is "set" as though in the period c. AD 10–20, although some scholars believe it to have been created decades later. The gemma was probably made in the court of Caesar Augustus. At some time in antiquity it moved to Byzantium, perhaps after Constantine I had officially moved the capital of the empire there. In 1246 the gem is recorded in the treasury of the Basilica of St. Sernin, Toulouse. Later in 1533, Francis I of France appropriated and moved it to Paris, where it disappears from records around 1590. Not long thereafter it was sold for 12,000 ducats to Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor. During the 17th century, it was set in German gold. This setting shows that the gem must have been damaged, the upper left side being broken with at least one other figure missing, probably before Rudolph II bought it, but definitely before 1700. The gem is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
In the uper part there are: Augustus (or maybe Tiberius) seated in a throne and with a lance. At his back there is Oikoumene - the personification of the inhabited world who wears upon her head a mural crown and veil and is crowning Augustus with the 'corona civica' (civic crown) of oak leaves. Closer to her there are Neptunus (or Ocean) and Italia Turrita (or maybe Gaia). Under the throne there is Jove's eagle. Seated next to Augustus (or Tiberius) there is Roma as helmeted goddess. She strongly resembles Livia, Augustus' wife and mother of Tiberius. At the left there is Victoria on a chariot and two other unindentified figures. Between Augustus and Roma there a sun with Augustus' favorite sign of Capricorn. In the lower tier there is the scene of the erection of a tropaion, a monument set up to commemorate a victory. From left to right we have a soldier (maybe a Macedonian auxiliary) with a shield with an emblazoned scorpion (Tiberius' birth sign), two Celts or German prisoners, one of the Dioscuri, the God Mars with his armor and flowing cape, the second of the Dioscuri (meaning the Gemini). Then there is the goddess Diana who holds spears in her left hand and her right hand seems to rest on the head of the prisoner wearing around his neck a torque, suggesting him to be a Celt or German. The female prisoner showing the sign of a truce by placing her hand upon her chest, is held by Mercurius. Some scholars suggest that Diana and Mercurius are sheltering them, perhaps offering them salvation in the final moments of victory. Whatever the case, the couple at the right are not comparable to the despairing couple at the left, with whom they appear both to balance and contrast; balance by having barbarians on the right and left, literally balancing the composition, and contrast as one couple being doomed to be bound at the trophy, and the other begging for what looks like a chance of mercy. (for wider info look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemma_Augustea)
Image Comments (42)
Jean_C () 11:16AM | Tue, 31 January 2017
A very beautiful and interesting carved piece, nice capture and infos!
ironsoul () 11:37AM | Tue, 31 January 2017
Curious how it moved from Byzantium to Toulouse, could it have been looted as part of the 4th Crusade? Anyhow great post.
CleonXXI () 11:54AM | Tue, 31 January 2017
Excellent photograph and outstandingly detailed explanatory notes. Great stuff!
blankfrancine () 1:22PM | Tue, 31 January 2017
Incredible all of the meaning of this small object.Great capture and info.
Radar_rad-dude () 5:49PM | Tue, 31 January 2017
Such an amazing artifact! Amazing history! Very well described! Bravo for sharing!
miwi () 2:18PM | Wed, 01 February 2017
Klasse foto,and an interesting info!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
adorety () 2:05PM | Mon, 06 February 2017
Amazing art work and great look at history. Pretty spectacular.