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Title: Engraved Gems
Author: Sommerville, Maxwell
Language: English
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My former treatise, “Engraved Gems, their Place in the History of Art,”
being largely illustrated and inconvenient in size, I have abridged the
work and with new material prepared this volume.

The various epochs of gem engraving from the earliest eras down to the
XVIII. century are briefly described.

Many people throughout the year cast passing glances at my glyptic
collection in the Free Museum of Science and Art of the University of

They express great admiration of the beautiful objects in stones of
many colors and interesting designs.

It was never intended to make only an attractive display; what I have
always desired and hoped for was that a proportion of our visitors
would recognize in my life’s work a contribution to science.

It is a classified representation of the glyptic work of more than
forty centuries, so carefully arranged that those who care to learn
through the medium of those beautiful engraved stones, cylinders,
seals, and Gnostic tokens, may inform themselves intelligently on the
science which these gems of all epochs so thoroughly exemplify.

Men in this Western World during the last three hundred years have been
engrossed in the pursuit and acquisition of fortunes.

A fair proportion of the population now having secured competency, that
condition once assured, with increased opportunities for intellectual
culture and the enjoyment of art, the development of refined tastes
and pursuits in America has been marked by the formation of many
private collections. Amateurs have gradually become connoisseurs in
manuscripts, ceramics, enamels, engravings, ancient coins, armor,
and arms. Happily, each is engrossed in his particular branch of

It is to be hoped that we may all profit by their researches, and that
the antique objects acquired by them may be stored in the Archæological
Museums of the world, that all who will may view them and learn from


Presuming that the majority of my readers would understand the Latin
inscription from an engraved stone, which decorates the cover of this
book, I have not given any translation. By request I add the following


      “Not alone for ourselves were we born, and of our
    birth our country claims for itself a part, our parents
    a part, our friends a part” (vendicat for vindicat).

On the reverse of the stone, which is not shown, is the inscription--


This is one of those peculiar maxims so often found in the Latin
language, as it is employed in epitaphs. The simplest manner in which
it can be translated is as follows:

       {customs}          {are}
  “The {usage  } of Death {is } equal for all.”
       {law    }

Death is here personified, as was Peace, Justice, Concord, etc., by the




  ENGRAVED GEMS                                                       11

  EGYPT                                                               16

  PERSIA AND BABYLON                                                  22

  THE ETRUSCANS--ETRURIA                                              36

  PHŒNICIA                                                            43

  GREECE                                                              48

  ROMAN                                                               55

  ABRAXAS                                                             58

  EARLY CHRISTIANS                                                    65

  BYZANTINE                                                           68

  MEDIÆVAL                                                            76

  RENAISSANCE                                                         80

  SUCCEEDING DECLINES AND REVIVALS                                    86

  SOME TYPES OF REMARKABLE GEMS                                       89

  RELIGION ON STONES                                                  98

  HISTORIC CAMEOS                                                    104

  ANIMALS AND BIRDS                                                  112

  ANTIQUE PASTES                                                     116

  MYTHOLOGICAL                                                       121

  CHINESE, BURMESE, AND SIAMESE                                      123

  AZTEC OR MEXICAN                                                   127

  RETROSPECTIVE                                                      129



  Protogenis, a Comedian of the Second Century, with a Mask,
    Playing the Character of Meleager, the “Wild Boar Hunter,”
    Engraved in His Time                                              11

  Vestal Virgins Guarding the Palladium, the Sacred Effigy of Minerva 15

  Egyptian                                                            17

  Egyptian Scarabeus: The Barque of the Sun, Represented by the
    Hieroglyph of the City of Heliopolis. The Obelisk below with
    the God Ra--and the Deess Ma, together Ra-Men-Ma, the Prenomen
    of King Set First, Second King of the XIX. Dynasty                21

  Portrait of Sapor                                                   22

  Allegorical Sketch of Persia                                        23

  Impressions of Babylonian Cylinders                                 27

  Impressions of Assyrian, Persian, Hittite, Phœnician, and Cyprian
    Cylinders                                                         29

  Allegorical Sketch of the Source of History                         33

  Persian Seals                                                       35

  Etruscan Sketch                                                     37

  Etruscan Scarabeus                                                  40

  Phœnician Scarabei and Intaglios                                    42

  Phœnician Intaglios, Mask, etc.                                     45

  Callimachus, the Greek Inventor of the Corinthian Capitol           48

  Greek and Roman Intaglio Rings                                      50

  Cameo, the Greek Pallas                                             52

  Roman Gems                                                          54

  Cameo in High Relief, Roman Emperor Caracalla                       57

  Abraxas or Gnostic Gems                                             59

  Abraxas Token                                                       62

  Abraxas or Gnostic Gems                                             63

  Early Christian Token                                               67

  Byzantine Gems                                                      69

  Byzantine Cabinet and Gems                                          73

  The Annunciation                                                    75

  An Orgie of Silenus                                                 78

  Renaissance-Medici Period                                           81

  Noah’s Ark                                                          85

  A very fine Intaglio by Giovanni Pickler--Ceres                     87

  Jupiter Ægiochus                                                    91

  The Triumph of Constantine                                          95

  John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness                       103

  Historic Cameos: 1347, Trajan offering a Sacrifice to Mars
    Vincitore; 1348, the Triumphant Entry of Titus Vespasianus
    into Jerusalem                                                   105

  Coriolanus: His Mother and Wife Beseeching Him to Raise the
    Siege of Rome                                                    107

  Historic Cameos: 1339, Trajan Pursuing a Wild Boar; 1350 and
    1351, Prisoners; 1349, the Exit from Jerusalem of the
    Victorious Army of Titus Vespasianus, the Golden Candlesticks,
    etc.                                                             109

  Cock and Serpent: The Cock Intaglio, “Vigilance;” The Serpent
    in Relief--Cameo; The Serpent’s Tail in its Mouth, “Eternity”    115

  Antique Pastes                                                     117

  Fragment of Antique Paste, Basso-rilievo                           120

  A Chimera: Four Faces and the Horn of Jupiter Ammon                122

  A Chinese Cameo                                                    124

  Aztec or Mexican                                                   126

  Aztec or Mexican                                                   128

  Odenatus and Zenobia                                               130



When specimens of any ancient art industry are brought together and
classified in a museum it is interesting to compare each piece and
trace the work from the hands of the different nationalities through
all the transitions and changing history of past centuries.

My collection exemplifies the progress in execution of engraved gems
from the most primitive eras through periods of varying excellence
and of inevitable decline. The quality of the execution approaches
perfection and degenerates as in a geometrical progression repeating
itself in reverse; advancing and improving in fineness up to nearly the
end of the first century, the century of Christ, and from the beginning
of the second century retrograding to the base of mediocrity at the end
of the fifth century.

The sixth and seventh centuries, the Byzantine period, yielded a group
of principally religious cameos, abundant, curious, and of great

This was succeeded by several hundred years not of repose in the
art, but of wretched ignorance, when man almost ceased to create
a connecting link in the history of the glyptic art. With rare
exceptions, the specimens of that time scarcely merit the designation
of gems: it was a period that may be reasonably identified as the night
of art, when, alas! in the darkness blows were stricken which destroyed
and reduced to fragments much that was precious and beautiful, and
vandalism, contributing nothing that was fair, robbed us of a large
part of our inheritance.

The progression alluded to is, in my estimation, only a question of
comparative beauty. If we seek for, or are capable of appreciating, the
most interesting, that which gives us history, we must find it at the
beginning of that progression--the era of the Babylonians--with its
messages handed down to us on their wonderful cylinders.

My path of research has led me where are gathered stones--engraved
stones, art-links in a carved chain reaching from the earliest
cylinders and seals of the Persians, centuries before and beyond those
wonderful stone books, the inscribed temples of Egypt.

Whilst considering and studying these specimens of the work of the
ancients we will walk upon the crumbled ruins of by-gone centuries;
our retrospective view shall be where changing elements, rust, and age
have spared but traces of palaces and temples; we will stroll beside
the pebbled course of a rapid stream until we reach a grove where I
oft have been, and found a rich repast; no shrines, no obelisks, no
statues, naught but these precious little stepping-stones, by which
we will follow the stream of thus revealed history, and in the vale
of antiquity, with these miniature monuments, study and enjoy the
indelible portraiture of ages.

Palaces, obelisks, statues, and the walls of ancient cities have rarely
been preserved to us, other than in decay, ruin, and fragments.

Yet engraved gems, those smaller monuments on hard stones, have been
spared in the very débris of these larger structures, and we are thus
enabled to secure examples of the handiwork of one branch of art,
covering many epochs and periods.

My earnest eyes have looked up to and gazed upon the silent monuments
and shrines of men, who during long centuries have rested from their
scientific labors. A wanderer in lands adapted to my researches, my
object has been to learn something of these mute monitors and to bring
back to my native land examples of the special branch of ancient art
which has been the pursuit of my life. Many discouraging moments, even
years, have been passed, yet always with the hope that my labor and its
results might some day be appreciated.

Years ago while rejoicing in the possession of the glyptic portraits of
the Emperors Tiberius, Caracalla, Constantine, and that of Faustina,
I thought with pleasant anticipation of the moment when on returning
from voyages of acquisition I might introduce them to intellectual
friends of “Science and Art.”

These gems are here being considered in their respective epochs. Those
who desire to inform themselves on the science of “Engraved Gems” will
find in these pages a brief view of that subject; it is in response to
many friendly demands, and shall be as concise as reasonably possible,
in keeping with ancient records on engraved stones, cylinders, and
seals. Your attention is asked to this general view of the subject,
with the hope that it may enlist some inquirers and admirers of this
glyptic question, so little esteemed or understood in these days; a
subject not only representing a branch of art covering a period of
forty odd centuries, but a science through whose engraved gems we have
been enabled to enrich our knowledge of the ancient history of the

Each nation which in ancient times practised the glyptic art, produced
a certain style or quality of execution.

After serious study of the general subject of glyptology, one finds
that the work of each epoch, and of each nationality, bears some
unmistakable trait. These features we can almost always recognize as
emanating from a certain people.

So completely have we acquired an acquaintance with the various
characteristics of each nation’s handiwork in engraving gems, that we
are enabled also to discern the epoch; not to a year, but within a
century or even a decade.

In proportion to the rudeness of the incisions we recognize the
barbaric condition of the people among whom they were incised; also in
proportion to the fineness of the incision, beauty of conception, and
execution of the design, do we estimate the civilization of the epoch
and of the people.

Some of the nations who have bequeathed us engraved gems were, in
two respects, the first sculptors. They were first, not only because
none of ability had preceded them, but rather were they first in art
rank, and in excellence of conception; their execution has never been
surpassed; their statues and high reliefs have never been equalled in
modern times.

Many of those colossal art works in stone have been transported to the
Vatican, to France, England, Austria, Germany, Russia, some even to
America; we are all conversant with them. Therefore, you can readily
imagine how we define and classify the work of each epoch and nation,
when a miscellaneous mass of engraved gems are placed before us for



Everyone in these days is familiar with those colossal stone figures
of Rameses, Osiris, Thotmes, and others in the sands of Egypt. Their
heavy, placid countenances, almost seeming to dream, while their inert
arms and hands hold forth the insignia of autocrats of Egypt under the

In Egypt, especially in the earlier or more remote dynasties, man seems
to have had the intention of handing down to posterity the records of
his power, his possessions, and of his own appearance, on great stone
statues, obelisks, and basso-rilievos, in the most indestructible

Besides the colossal stone bequests created for generations unborn,
happily they produced the same portraitures and cartouches in miniature
gems. The majority of the temple decorations in stone have crumbled,
while we can possess and enjoy the glyptic relics which have survived
the ravages of time uninjured.


[Illustration: 467]

[Illustration: 480 obverse.]

[Illustration: 489 obverse.]

[Illustration: 458]

[Illustration: 480 reverse.]

[Illustration: 489 reverse.]

[Illustration: 456]


Among the Scarabei are especially interesting examples larger in size
termed funereal; No. 1476 in my University Collection is one of those
Scarabei which were buried with the dead, sometimes on the breast
underneath the wrappings, and sometimes within the body of the mummy
in the place of the heart. The heart was embalmed separately in a
vase, and placed under the protection of the genius Duaoumautew. This
doubtlessly was done because the heart was considered indispensable
for the resurrection, yet it could not be placed in the body until it
had been upon the scales and had passed the judgment of Osiris. When
the sentence was favorable it was promised that “his heart shall be
returned to its original cavity.” The heart, the principle of existence
and regeneration, was symbolized by the Scarabeus. This is why texts
relative to the heart were inscribed on funereal Scarabei. On this
Scarabeus the deceased speaks, saying: “I hope that my soul shall
speedily quit or rise from the regions infernal, and, reappearing on
earth, may do all that pleases it.”

Also No. 1479, a funereal Scarabeus, interesting from the fact that
the inscription contains part of the 30th chapter of the Book of the
Dead--that is, the chapter concerning the heart: “My heart, which comes
to me from my mother--my heart, necessary to my existence on earth--do
not raise thyself against me among or before the chief divinities.”
These were the superior gods, whom the Egyptians supposed to be in the
immediate surrounding or presence of Isis.

The remainder of the inscription is less legible. On the first line
is the name of Osiris Jam (all the dead had Osiris prefixed to
their names); on the last line is the name of his father, which is
indistinct; it was evidently the same as the name of a plant, and
ending with M, but cannot be defined; that is, it is inscribed “son of
----,” and then the unintelligible name alluded to.

Also No. 1457, a funereal Scarabeus, on which the deceased, speaking,
expresses hopes, continually repeated, that his soul may have a happy
voyage, happy relief, and transport from the inevitable transitory
domain to which all are consigned.

Also No. 1480, Egyptian Scarabeus, containing a vow or wish, a vase
representing a libation. The sum of the rendering of the inscription
is: “I dedicate my life to truth, and hope for cooling breezes and

And No. 1461. The inscription expresses a vow or wish: “NEFER KHET
NEB”--“All things good (for thee)!”--a New Year’s wish.

There were artisans who engraved the larger funereal Scarabei and
kept them ready made on sale, so that in the event of a man dying
unexpectedly in youth or the prime of life who had not thought to
prepare for his sojourn in the tomb, his family repaired to these
shops, and, choosing a Scarabeus to their taste or liking, purchased
it; the engraver then added the name of the deceased, and they placed
it under the wrappings of the mummy.

These traffickers also did a thriving trade with the living: many
provided themselves in advance. There were always a variety from which
to choose; the engraver had them for every taste. They were inscribed
with just such vows or wishes for the future and the repose or the
enjoyment of the soul, or the commending of the soul to the patronage
and protection of some special god or deess, as the case might demand
for a man or a woman. Often selections were given from the poetic
devotional writings of their mentors, and frequently we meet with
selections from the Book of the Dead.

We find shreds and examples of the costumes of the occupants of
graves of other ancient nations. These garments were made, as now,
that the body might be decorously placed at rest. This we also find
in Egypt, the mummy-wrappings concealing and protecting the Scarabei
presenting this beautiful sentiment, indeed unique--a symbol that was
worn in life, emblematic of its ephemeral tenure and of the ultimate
resurrection from death and the grave; a symbol that accompanied its
owner to the narrow home, not to ornament it, but as a token of that
tenant’s belief that this would be only a brief occupancy; a symbol
ready to be worn when that tenant should enter on his resurrection into
an eternal lease of joy in a world beyond.



We are particularly interested in the curious and elaborately engraved
cylinders and seals of the Assyrians, Persians, the Babylonians, the
Chaldeans, the Hittites, which not only give us their costumes, but
are laden with cuneiform inscriptions. In my collection there is a gem
of the same style of work as the stone slab in the University Museum
procured by Professor H. V. Hilprecht from the ancient palace of
Ashurna Sirbal, King of Assyria 884 to 860 B. C.


This glyptic specimen is in miniature, engraved on a rich wine-colored
dark sard bearing a portrait of King Sapor I.; he was the second of the
Sassanians, who reigned in the third century. He was crowned in the
year 242 A. D. It is surrounded by an inscription in Sassanian. Sapor’s
invasion of Palmyra and his contests with the forces of Zenobia are
interesting incidents of that romantic episode in Oriental history.


Cylinders are evidently the oldest form of seals, though it is believed
that the art originated on sections of wooden reeds. We find Chaldean
cylinders now more than 4000 years old.

The signets of kings in the cylindric form were incised in the harder
and more precious materials, such as chalcedony in several hues,
the fairest those tinged with a sapphire tint (though not the most
ancient), sards, carnelians, and occasionally beautiful red jasper;
hematite in abundance; serpentine and many softer stones, alabaster,
steatite, etc.

It remains a question on what materials the impressions were made,
though scientists have learned that the figures in relief on patties
of pipe-clay found so plentifully in Babylon are the imprints of these

Though a large proportion of cylinders are rudely designed and more
coarsely executed, many of them are freely, vigorously, and well drawn,
evincing a high degree of talent.

Remark the anatomical drawings of man and beast; they are unsurpassed
in any age, especially the contest between men and lions, where
naturally the muscles are strongly developed and show prominently.

As bearers of messages from that remote period, they come more welcome
to us than the fairest Greek or Roman intaglios.

With an interesting pictured and lettered cylinder in hand one may have
before him one of the keys to the most ancient fountain-heads in which
history is locked up. My taste has grown and perhaps been influenced by
long association with such gems, until I now often find more pleasure
in regarding a rude fragment of Assyrian work than I did thirty years
ago when I sought only the beautiful.

The place of these Babylonian cylinders in the history of art cannot be
classed as decorative, for as they were originally used only as seals,
and mostly business or official signets, they were not at that time
used to decorate the person, though they were worn on necklaces and
bracelets by the ancient Greeks.

No. 499 in my collection is one of the most interesting because the
great and lamented François Lenormant examined it with me, wrote his
opinion, and expressed his admiration of it.

It is a Babylonian cylinder, 29 millimetres broad by 3 millimetres in
length. On it is represented a seated god with a two-horned head-dress
in a long flounced dress; before him an altar with four spreading legs,
an antelope, a small walking figure, a scorpion, two birds facing one
another; other human figures.

Lenormant wrote while attending a seance of l’Institut de France.


[Illustration: 1403]

[Illustration: 1405]

[Illustration: 498]

[Illustration: 499]

[Illustration: 1374]



[Illustration: ASSYRIAN. 1366]

[Illustration: PERSIAN. 1402]

[Illustration: HITTITE. 1401]

[Illustration: PHŒNICIAN. 495]

[Illustration: CYPRIAN. 1370]


“This cylinder which appears to be of serpentine belongs
incontestably to the most antique epoch of Chaldean art of the first
years of the ancient empire. It is at least contemporaneous with those
cylinders bearing the names of the oldest kings of d’Ous and like those
of the Dungi.”

Persia and Assyria furnish us also a beautiful series of seals; the
earlier conical, then a series of spherical seals, with one side
flattened, on which is the design and inscription, and then the later
Sassanian, also spherical, yet more flattened on the sides, which are
pierced, and whose circumferences are beautifully ornamented.

There exist a large series of subjects adopted by their owners on
account of their superstitious belief in their talismanic virtues;
and quite a series of rudely-drawn animals emblematic of vigilance,
fidelity, courage, strength, etc. Sometimes on seals as well as on
cylinders a full-length figure is given in whose costume there is a
marked peculiarity of drapery, the folds crossing the form diagonally,
like a Burmese Sarong.

They are on a great variety of chalcedonies, sards, jaspers, and other
beautiful stones of color.

Those of the Assyrians, dating as far back as 1110 B. C., resemble in
form the bells herdsmen hang upon their grazing cattle that they may
hear them when they have strayed.

The location of the ancient Persians in proximity to India, whose
river-beds were rich in varieties of hard water-worn pebbles, enabled
them to procure from thence suitable stones for decoration and for
inscriptions. Thousands of these decorated and inscribed stones have
been unearthed and are to-day in our possession; glyptologists can and
have read them. Many examples of these cylinders, seals, and their
imprints are before you.

It is proven that the Assyrians knew of and practiced the art of
engraving on stone; we are not fully convinced that they were the first
to practice the art.

We are frequently able to corroborate glyptic inscriptions by
statements in Holy Writ, though we certainly find on ancient cylinders,
incisions many centuries anterior to the records to which we have here

We know little of the Assyrian divinities through ancient manuscripts,
yet we have volumes about their deities written on the cylinders of
Babylon and Nineveh. They were seldom in metallic mountings, but, being
pierced with holes, were strung on cords and worn on the wrist and neck.

There is a host of occupants of the Assyrian heaven, with Asshur the
supreme god, Beltis Mylitta the great mother, etc.; and on the seals in
sard and chalcedony we have sacred doves, lions, horses, etc., and a
winged bull, Nin, the god of hunting, etc.

These intaglio seals were often used as locks; the doors of
wine-cellars were secured by placing a seal upon them. Cylinders have
also been made by several races of South American Indians, and are
still to be seen in Brazil.


We have a most interesting and instructive illustration of the
value of modern research among the relics of antiquity in the fact
that in 1854, Sir Henry Rawlinson, in deciphering the inscriptions on
some cylinders found in the ruins of Um-Kir (the ancient Ur of the
Chaldees), made historical discoveries in regard to the last King of
Babylon that confirmed the truth of the book of Daniel, and harmonized
discrepancies between Holy Scripture and profane history which up to
that time had been hopelessly irreconcilable.

Among the bequests from Persia many gems are engraved on the hardest
and most precious stones; they present us with portraits of their
monarchs, deities, legends, religious creeds, and seals of office.
Though rude, they are exceedingly interesting from their antiquity
and as being the achievements of a people so remote from the European
centre of civilization.




The country of the ancient Etruscans was north from the Tiber to the
Ciminian Forest and the Tolfa Mountains.

They have bequeathed us a mass of gems, a large proportion in the
form of Scarabei, and many really fine intaglios, which were not only
used as seals, but served as decorations, both in finger-rings and
as brooches for women. The Etruscan tombs have yielded many Scarabei
in mountings of virgin gold, sometimes the precious metal twisted,
again corrugated; also some ornamental gold work as brooches. The sard
and chalcedony beetles usually had an engraved beaded margin, and
were revolvable, being set on a pivot which was attached to a frame
generally oval in form.

The Etruscans, unlike their predecessors, have left us few examples
other than the very gems and Scarabei by which to study their glyptic
work. We have the decorations of their sepulchral homes; we know of
their costumes by their mural paintings in those subterranean chambers.

Their glyptic style is unique; a series of deeply-drilled cavities,
afterward joined to one another, forming designs frequently contorted
by the artist in his endeavor to bring his subject into the very
limited space of the under face of the Scarabeus.

[Illustration: ETRUSCAN.]

The Etruscans probably borrowed the idea of the Scarabeus form of gem
from the Egyptians; they certainly shaped it more beautifully. They
seem to have adopted only the symbol.

There was a difference in the quality of their Scarabei corresponding
with the classes or stations in the life of the people; those cut for
royalty, nobility, or the wealthy naturally received more attention in
forming and finishing.

Those for the tradespeople, the well-to-do, we find quite a distinctive
order. In this group they are less graceful in shape, the beetles are
rounder, thicker, and shorter, not so carefully finished, as also
the simpler borders formed of two lines just within the edge, either
crossed with regular, straight, or oblique lines forming bars, with
some little variety of pattern.

The Etruscans called themselves the Rasenna; the early Italians knew
them as the Tusci or Etrusci. The Greeks denominated the race as
Turrhenoi or Tursenoi, and the ancient Latin name was Tursci.

The engraved records of the Etruscans have hitherto successfully defied
all attempts at interpretation. Now that the Assyrian and Egyptian
records have been read, these Etruscan inscriptions present the only
considerable philological problem that still remains unsolved. But that
it remains unsolved has not been for want of effort. A vast amount of
ingenuity and of erudition has been wasted in attempts to explain the
inscriptions by the aid of Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Phœnician, Arabic,
Ethiopic, Chinese, Coptic, and Basque have all been tried in vain.

It may be safely affirmed that few of these attempts have been regarded
as satisfactory by any person except their authors.

A comparison of the Etruscan inscriptions with the characters of the
Finno-Turkic language, a form of speech employed by those inhabiting
the region lying between the Ural and the Altai Mountains, has, I
believe, resulted with the first and only success that has ever
attended such investigations.



[Illustration: 548]

[Illustration: 546]

[Illustration: 553]

[Illustration: 558]

[Illustration: 555]

[Illustration: 554]



Alas, we have to dig deep and toil to learn all we want to know so
much about these people who 2500 years ago inhabited that narrow
mountain-guarded strip of land looking westward on the same emerald sea
that to-day breaks on the shore of what is now Syria.

They have consigned us no books, no pamphlets, no journals, not a
page--only here and there do we unearth a graven stone, an inscribed
cylinder and Scarabeus; and with these stone fragments of that nation’s
literary bequests we will hope to obtain some idea of the history
of Phœnicia--Phœnicia, whose people, not content with mounting five
thousand feet to the temple of the Casian Jupiter, to see the sun
upon the morning horizon, floated away on their frail barks on the
deep waters, seeking light, knowledge, and gain. Mythology was their
religion, which, like the subjects and styles of their engraved stones
and gems of iridescent antique paste, was borrowed from Assyria,
Greece, and even somewhat from the myths of the people among whom many
of them settled.

Herodotus speaks of the Phœnicians as a branch of the Semitic or
Aramæan nations; they originally dwelt on the shores of the Erythrean
Sea. They also occupied islands in the Persian Gulf, among others
Aradus and Tylus, where temples in Phœnician architecture were found;
and it is known that the Phœnicians left these islands and colonized in
the Ægean and Mediterranean Seas before the time of Joshua, 1444 B. C.

Of the Romans and the Grecians, we have their history through the
writings of their own historians; and of the Egyptians, by their
monuments teeming with hieroglyphics, history, and theology. Of the
Phœnicians little is extant in writings from their own people; we
are dependent on what other nations have recorded--in fact, what we
know of them may be called tradition. The Phœnicians were termed
“the merchants of many isles.” We can hardly say they cultivated the
arts at home, for wherever they went, there they made their home; on
every island inhabited by them are found evidences of their industry
as gem-cutters--intaglios, scarabei, and seals. I remember how I was
impressed on going ashore at Syra and walking through its beautiful
amphitheatral city of to-day, whose site had once known those very
Phœnicians, examples of whose gems may be seen in my collection.

They emigrated as far west as Sardinia. Sardinia was originally called
Sandaleotis, from its form, which resembles a human foot or its
imprint, where during centuries a moderate harvest has been reaped of
gems emanating from their handiwork.


[Illustration: 1810]

[Illustration: 1799]

[Illustration: 1805]

[Illustration: 1795]

[Illustration: 1796]

[Illustration: 519]

[Illustration: 1800]


To a practised eye their work is distinguishable from that of other
nations; the touch, drawing, execution, and the distinctive character
of their subjects render them readily recognizable. Yet the symbolic
characters are not entirely distinctive, for they often clearly
indicate imitation of Assyrian and Egyptian work and design. For that
reason it is often difficult to decide or classify gem-objects found in
many of the islands once colonized by them, from the very fact that in
design they at times lack originality.

They were a migratory people, and in this brief glance at the whole
range of our subject we shall be satisfied with mention of their colony
at Tharros, on the island at Sardinia, where the most unquestionably
authentic Phœnician Scarabei have been found in excavations made during
the last sixty years. They are principally cut on green jasper, and in
character resemble Persian designs.

In these times we write our history every day on millions of great
pages of white paper. In almost no contingency will future generations
have any difficulty of learning who we were, where we came from, how
we have formed the master metal--iron--into thousands of implements
and instruments, or how they have been employed; being supplied with
our ready inscribed history, they can begin where we have left off and
profit by our experience.



The earliest specimens of Greek gems bore traces of Egyptian style;
they represented objects rather symbolically than by artistic
delineation of the beautiful in the human form or in nature. On the box
of Cypselus death was represented with crooked legs, beauty and youth
by long tresses of hair, power by long hands, swiftness and agility by
long feet. Many of the oldest Greek statues were accompanied with the
names of the subjects represented, which seems to imply that the artist
was conscious of his deficiency, both in character and expression.
Yet in time they created single figures and groups in fair marble,
whose symmetry and exquisite modelling of the human form command the
admiration of all. They are either at rest or displaying the muscles,
sinews, and even the passions of athletic men and adorable women.

Greece was the source of the finest and richest glyptic art-treasures
in a decorative sense. Grecian intaglios are of superb execution, of
exquisite fineness and finish. This superiority can in a measure be
accounted for by the encouragement the profession received from the
nation, both from rulers and from the people.


In proportion to the extended cultivation of taste and the increased
demand, the ranks of the incisori were repleted. Among so many
contestants rivalry and emulation had a very happy effect in forming
and creating artists who were indeed eminent, and whose works even
to-day sparkle as jewel-gems in the diadem which crowns the history of
their place in art.

The perfect finish, polish, and detail of their choicest examples
render them superior to the gems of any other people, even to many that
come from Roman sources.

It is often almost impossible intelligently to explain the difference
between the gems of the Greeks and the Romans; such power of
distinguishing one from the other is only to be gained by long
observation and close study of the subject.

Many of them, however, seem to say to us whenever we meet them in
exile, “We are of Ancient Greece, Grecians of the epoch and home of
Pericles the patron, and Phidias the practitioner.” We are reminded
of these classic, silent monuments when we meet and recognize the
strictly glyptic work of the incisori of the land of the Parthenon.
It is by comparison and contrast that we study and classify their
gems. Beautiful stones have recently been discovered at Mycenæ, among
which are engraved gems bearing effigies of animals curiously and
artistically drawn, and which, by their Oriental style, prove that
the ancient Greeks, who bequeathed so much to their successors, also
inherited art-models from a people 1000 years B. C.

At first the colonists incised what was known as the Hellenic style,
and then, as they fraternized with the Romans, and as the Romans
made incisions under the Greek teaching, their glyptic works showed
the Greek influence, and such works constituted the gems of the
Græco-Romano. Many of the intaglios by Romans, of this school, were
signed in Greek characters, and can be seen in my collection. This act
of a Roman signing his name in characters other than the Latin letters
peculiar to his own country shows how Grecian art was appreciated in
the Græco-Roman epoch.


[Illustration: GRÆCO-ROMAN.]


The classic multitudinous gems of the Roman period: their emperors,
statesmen, warriors, and poets--in fact, some of their gems have given
to us the only perfect portraits in miniature that have been preserved
from ancient time; incidents of their conflicts, their sports, games,
and apparel--with the mass of chimeras and at times mysteries. The
endless grand historical cameos, some of which in my collection
represent nineteen and even twenty-two figures in good relief carefully
engraved on a single stone. We know that gem-engraving in Rome in the
prolific period was celebrated for the greatest diversity of subjects
both in cameos and intaglios. Rome, the patroness of the ancient world.

Rome did not achieve this phenomenal position unaided, though in its
palmiest days it was the art shrine of the nations. To attain this
position it drew from comparatively distant sources, and borrowed
talent wherever it was available.

When Rome’s reputation as the glyptic school was heralded and
established throughout the nations as the art centre of the world, it
became as we have inferred, the vortex into which hosts of artisans
were attracted, and who, when once there, established themselves.

They were well received; were elated with plenty of occupation,
emolument, and good prices; in their new life they identified
themselves with their fellow incisori, and became Romans, or, at least,

In fact, the variety in styles and designs produced by all the ancient
peoples of Italy was due to emigration. Profiting by the culture and
art experience of Etruria, Rome learned from the Etruscan architects,
potters, die-sinkers, and gem-engravers.

They learned from these more ancient incisori many useful lessons which
enabled them to accomplish wonders. Within the limited space available
on those little gem stones, they depicted with complicated minuteness
details of events in actual history, and displayed remarkable tact
and astonishing powers of composition in their rendering of groups of
figures and mythological deities in scenes of quasi historical events.

Though we have seen the work of the Græco-Romans bearing evidence of
combined influence and instruction, there was even at that very epoch
a school, or powerful class of artists, in Rome, who retained their
own individuality, who were Romans of Rome, and from whose hands, and
from their successors, we have inherited grand cameos and intaglios,
portraying their emperors, statesmen, philosophers, mythological
subjects, and occasionally groups recording important events in Roman

Considering we find Roman glyptic work of merit until nearly the
close of the second century A. D., there was in all a period of good
gem-engraving covering about eight hundred years.

Throughout all this time the glyptic art flourished under the
protection of kings and emperors, who for the general encouragement of
the civilizing arts, served their own interests and gratified their
tastes for luxury and the beautiful by their constant patronage of



The unique mystic gems of the Gnostics, known as the Abraxas, are a
series by themselves; they had no prototype.

Their strangely decorated and inscribed stone tokens are so
characteristic of the sect that they also are easily recognized.
The task of explaining the meaning of these incisions is the more
difficult, as the veil is almost impenetrable which obscures the
history of everything that pertains to these little stone fetiches of
the Gnostics.

The very disciples who carried those amuletic gems did so without
understanding the meaning of the marks and symbols engraved upon them.
They evidently were sacred types of their superstitious creed, invented
and placed there by their mentors or priests.

They were Pagans, Jews, and nominal Christians, and we find in their
inexhaustible inscriptions a series of emblems, Hebrew and Syriac,
which dimly show forth Christ the Son, and Sun of Righteousness with
ΑΔΟΝΑΙ, and the seven Greek vowels symbolic of the seven heavens. These
Greek vowels have often amused me when I have shown an Abraxas talisman
with long inscription to some Greek scholar not acquainted with
their gems, who would stumble when he reached the other characters.


[Illustration: 574 obverse.]

[Illustration: 574 reverse.]

[Illustration: 562 obverse.]

[Illustration: 562 reverse.]

[Illustration: 564 obverse.]

[Illustration: 569]

[Illustration: 564 reverse.]

[Illustration: 573 obverse.]

[Illustration: 573 reverse.]


The religion of Jesus Christ was by no means established peaceably and
immediately in the days following his crucifixion and resurrection.
By a close reading of several of the Epistles of the New Testament
you will see that during the first and second centuries many were the
beliefs and even schisms among those who thought that they believed in
Christ. In the second Epistle to the Corinthians there is evidence that
the learned doctors raised altar in opposition to altar. None of them
were avowedly reared by the Gnostics, yet the Apostle Paul recognized
their opposition to the orthodox growing faith and combated them,
knowing that Christianity at that critical moment was constantly losing
adherents who, through the sophistries of the Abraxas, were daily
relinquishing their ardent hold on the new hope in Christ.

Undoubtedly this Abraxas sect, who made so many cabalistic talismans,
which were so blindly accepted and worn by their disciples, had among
them many who knew of our Saviour. It appears from history, and from
their mystic characters, that they had a clearer appreciation of Christ
than a just or reasonable fear of the prince of the region of darkness,
as Zoroaster termed the chief of inferno. They derived their idea of
Satan, the arch tempter, from the appellation given him by certain
sects in Central Asia, where, to better deceive their victims, they
spoke of him as an angel of light. In modern times the lives of many
men have proved that they had no desire to repulse Satan, but rather
lived harmoniously in fellowship with him as their guide.

St. Paul besought the Christians to guard well the precious truths
revealed and confided to them, and to fear and fly from the profane
novelties that were threatening the welfare of their souls (I. Timothy,

In a word, these great pagan monuments were the forerunners and the
models of many of the small and portable talismans that were freely
disseminated by the priests of the Abraxas to their disciples and their

One important fact must be understood. The signs, symbols, the
unintelligible hieroglyphs of the Gnostics, the Basilidians, which
we find on the Abraxas gems--almost all talismans--are the mystic
representations of a sect thus made up of people of several nations,
all of whom in their aspirations sought for knowledge of the invisible
power, that unquestionably had created and who governed all things,
whom, though unseen, they served and feared.



[Illustration: 561 obverse.]

[Illustration: 561 reverse.]

[Illustration: 1431]

[Illustration: 568 obverse.]

[Illustration: 568 reverse.]

[Illustration: 565]



The events narrated in the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ
resulted in the drawing together of his followers, who daily sought to
worship their risen Redeemer, notwithstanding the terrible opposition
of the heathen autocrats of Rome.

Very naturally in proportion to the imperial opposition the faithful
became more fervent. As they could not publicly meet for worship and
prayer, they were compelled to do so clandestinely.

Now in order that only the faithful should enter, and that the enemies
might be detected, a system of tesseræ was invented, and soon these
were made in the form of engraved pietradura; the designs always
were of the simplest character--a dove, two or three fish, two palms
crossed, etc., and other religious gem-tokens; this formed the glyptic
epoch known as the Early Christian gems.

Be it understood, there was no representation of “God,” the “Father,”
or of “Christ;” only simple symbols of the class already described;
symbols of their simple faith.

This was a period of glyptic work in which a series of gems were
engraved by a people who pursued their avocation under peculiarly
trying circumstances; they were the “Early Christians.”

The children born of those who had already espoused the new doctrine
were taught with the first lessons of life to know, to revere, and
to trust in the Saviour; with their earliest lisping words, from the
cradle they learned to plead in prayer for divine protection.

The earliest Christians, the first converts, born in paganism, had
not the opportunities with which their offspring and descendants were
favored; they had to renounce the superstitions in which they had been
reared, and were often obliged to sever the friendly ties of youth.

These first enrolled with the followers of Christ, pagans, whose
convictions impelled them to accept the Redeemer, offered to their
inquiring hearts, commenced anew lives with many pagan prejudices and
customs clinging to them.

Some of them were incisori, and it is interesting to observe among the
comparatively few gems of this epoch the evidence of transition. Many
of these gems unquestionably bearing some of the simpler Christian
decoration were still adorned with pagan designs. On one we find
Astarte; on others, Serapis, Mercury, Venus, or Apollo. The divinity,
the loveliness of expression sometimes given to these transition
portraits seem to have been the work of artists whose souls were imbued
with the singular beauty of that Divine Man whom Publius Lentulus
announced to the Senate as “the prophet of truth,” a man whose
personal beauty excelled all human creatures--and yet the effigy really
was of some pagan deity. These gems, however, which were characterized
by remnants of pagan decoration, were only of the epoch immediately
succeeding the institution of the sect of “followers of Christ,” and
preceding the dawning struggle of the “Early Christians,” to establish
their belief and to retain their rights as citizens. They renounced the
idolatrous religion of the nation, and their glyptic work was generally
typical of the purity and simplicity of their faith and their devotion
to its observance.



One might naturally suppose that the gems of the early Christians would
abound in representations of scriptural events and incidents of the
life of Christ. Such was not the case; these subjects were abundantly
produced by the Byzantines about the fifth century A. D. This can
be accounted for from the fact that most of these subject-gems were
engraved to decorate the sacred vessels and paraphernalia of the church
altars in Byzantium.

With Constantine we find the Byzantine epoch in its maturity. With the
simplicity of the early Christians we have remarked that everything
like representation of the Godhead was eliminated or rather forbidden.

It was the Byzantines who created for the gem market token cameos
and intaglios on which were incised effigies of the Holy Family, and
incidents in every phase in that series of events that never has been
equalled in historic interest in the records of time: the birth, life,
trial, sufferings, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

Elaborate details characterized the cameos picturing the triumphs of
that Christian emperor and the portraiture of his mother Helena.


[Illustration: 589]

[Illustration: 580]

[Illustration: 590]

[Illustration: 578]

[Illustration: 575]


The annunciation, the visitation, the birth in the manger, the
adoration of the wise men and the magi, the bearing of the cross, the
crucifixion, etc.

With the Byzantine epoch we meet with the Emperor Constantine as we
turn from the first period of decadence, in fact, almost demise, of the
art of the incisori.

The justice, energy, and enterprise of Constantine showered benefits on
all industrious men in the Eastern Roman world. Skilled workmen, spared
from the absorbing conflicts of war, anew devoted themselves in peace
to their mechanical avocations.

Prosperity ruled and was assured to the people. Foremost among
these artisans were the gem-engravers; the demand for their glyptic
productions, and the amount produced, was phenomenal.

The dignity of Constantine’s successful empire was sustained by a
retinue of courtiers; luxury characterized all the imperial decorations
of his palace.

His willing subjects supplied his demands and gratified his refined
tastes by zealously executing his liberal commands in all branches of
art, and especially in the art of gem-engraving, which contributed
largely to the court adornment.

Recognizing the near relationship between gems and coins, we here
see that Constantine, shortly after he had established his empire in
Byzantium, removed the pagan emblems from the coins of the empire,
and issued others on which he caused to be impressed the legend
illustrating and recording the peculiar incident of his conversion; to
this was added a phœnix, emblematic of the renovation of his empire,
together with the monogram of Christ, and the Angel of Victory, which
in his vision had directed his course at the time of his conversion to
Christianity and triumph over the pagan enemy.

At the time of his baptism at Nicomedia he clad himself in a white
robe, and from that time he never resumed the imperial purple.

This incident was also engraved, and formed the subject of a design on
a later coin.

The engravers employed by Constantine were incisori of the highest rank
of that period; none others were in favor. They executed portraits
of his family, of his wife Fausta, of his sons, and of himself--in
combat, in bust, on horseback, in imperial power; always laureated, and
principally on cameos, very few intaglios being cut at this time.

Several important examples have survived the rack and ruin of time,
and may be seen in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris, the British
Museum at London, the Royal and Imperial Collections of Vienna and St.
Petersburg, and in my collection.

These unique gems, those commissioned by Constantine, however, form a
small proportion of the glyptic harvest from the Byzantine period. With
Constantine commences the series of scriptural cameos, which continue
during several years in Byzantia.

The great number of cameos preserved from this epoch bearing scriptural
subjects, which were ordered and engraved for reliquaries and every
description of vessels, and for the adornment of altar book-bindings,
for church and cathedral ceremonies, far exceeds in quantity those
imperial portraits, and to an appreciator of distinctive specialties in
a representative art collection they are more interesting.

[Illustration: BYZANTINE.]

After a few heads of Christ attributed to the Sassanians, we meet
in the reign of Constantine the first gem portraits of our Saviour.
These sacred portraits, even at times rudely rendered, have often more
divinity in them than many similar subjects of a later period.

The distinctive, most characteristic, Byzantine gems are the large
series of scriptural cameos, designed in relief for the ornamentation
of the sacred vessels and other paraphernalia on the altars of the
churches at the Byzantine capital.



The era in the decline in art was sensibly marked in the glyptic
branch. The very rude and often grotesquely drawn designs we meet in
this long period, the Middle Ages, may well be termed the dark days.

The eras of art in the history of nations have been marked by the
same changing characteristics; light has invariably been succeeded
by darkness; there are shadows ever following the bright rays of the
sun. This day of imagery and sculpture, feeble at its dawn, radiant
in its morning, powerful in the glory and effulgence of its meridian,
deteriorated as evening advanced, faded in the twilight, was at last
veiled in the long period of decadence--the Middle Ages, the night of

These people, so credulous and so trusting in these token-stones, by
degrees formed themselves into groups, at first of two or three, with
ties of pious friendship; subsequently these associations gradually
increased in the numbers of their adherents until the growing fanatic
idea of closing one’s eyes on the sinful world was the incentive which
formed at first asylums, and soon after monasteries; and the monastic
life became popular; wavering men, feeling themselves too weak to
face the temptations of the world, resorted to these holy retreats
and there sought God. Few reasonable men can be truly happy without
occupation, and, happily for us, these recluses saw the importance and
the historic interest of engraved gems. Many interesting intaglios were
thus spared from loss and destruction.

The numerous orders of monks during this barbarous epoch collected
all that possibly could be saved from the destroying avalanche, and
with great diligence transcribed on parchment types of the existing

The laborers in the limited field of art in the Middle Ages were these
dwellers in monasteries. To them we are indebted for some rude fibres
in the fabric with which this period of darkness is canopied; they
walked under it in the simplicity of monastic life; and to us at least
it conveys the lesson that man has forgotten so much, knows so little,
and has so much to learn.

Their intaglios were generally of a spiritual and devotional
character, though some of them relieved the tedium of cloister life by
creating in _basso-rilievo_ on bone and ivory the most ludicrous and
mirth-provoking designs.

The subjects of the engraved gems of the eighth, ninth, tenth, and
eleventh centuries are to a great extent unmeaning figures and
heads--portraits of unknown personages, now and then reproductions of
ancient Roman emperors and military heroes of historic renown, yet
poorly rendered and bad in execution.

There are also many inexplicable subjects, portraying groups of three
four, five, and six figures, evidently intended to commemorate events
in history; also mythological processions, both in rude intaglios
and equally mediocre cameos, giving triumphs of Silenus and Bacchus,
portraying these heroes in forms, the drawing of which would raise
blushes on their cheeks could they return to earth and be allowed
to criticise their effigies. Silenus, even full of wine, would have
growled and remonstrated, and would have pronounced some of them absurd
misrepresentations; they, however, are very interesting, if only on
account of their contrast with the examples of Greek and Roman glyptic


In this epoch, again, we find instances of the sensitiveness of the
numismatic branch of the art of gem-engraving, for the models of all
pieces of money are intaglios, and thus far they are related to the
glyptic art; and it has always been the first industry giving evidence
of a decline.

The view of these relics of cloister art convinces us that they of the
dark ages did not contribute the truly beautiful.... Yet shadows pass
“with time and the hour.”... Night is passing, ... comes the gray, ...
comes the dawn, ... comes the morning light. Creatures that at evening
ceased their song, tune now their pipes and sing again; they chant anon
the requiem of the Night of Art; and yet anon, they sing the coming
of the light. They celebrate at last, with hope, the renewing of all
things beautiful in art. The orb of day gilds the horizon; man beholds
the aurora of approaching day.


In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, under the encouragement
of the Medici family, skilled artisans again emigrated to Italy
as coadjutors in the great revival of all that was beautiful in

They created, for the glyptic phase of art, a position almost as
important as it had enjoyed in the first century A. D.

It is not surprising that comparatively so few engraved gems have
been handed down to us when we consider the tides of the last twenty
centuries as a great sea which has borne to the shores of civilized
Europe, and later to America, specimens of ancient art creations--that
sea, at times placid, yet ever and anon turbulent with devastating
storms, whose iconoclastic waves broke upon the ancient sites of
antiquity, destroying treasures that thus have been irreparably lost to
archæological science and to our museums.

As a child becomes restless with the consciousness of coming day before
it fully wakes from sleep, man, weary of this night of ignorance and
the atmosphere of barbarism--fretful on his couch under the yoke of
tyranny, striving to shake it off while yet enveloped by the shades
of error, rose up to seek an element he knew not, a light he dreamed
would come!


[Illustration: 624]

[Illustration: 601]

[Illustration: 634]

[Illustration: 1358]

[Illustration: 632]

[Illustration: 621]

[Illustration: 631]

[Illustration: 616]


He burst the cords that bound his strength; he pierced the clouds
which dulled his vision, and, leaving his prison-house, reached forth
his fearless arm, and pushing aside the sombre folds of the long
intervening veil, peered into the outer world of progress, and in the
gray gloom he descried a distant terrace. With rapid strides, through
furrows of popular prejudice and cinders of past magnificence, over
crumbled arch and fallen pillar, frieze, and pediment, he sped his way;
nor flagged nor halted, till the summit reached, he stood and gazed
with earnest look out into the coming time; he beheld in the vista
before him many streams flowing into the sea of the future. In the
horizon gleamed again the omen of coming day; it was the harbinger of a
new birth.

The light of truth flashed upon his mind, discovering to him his
freed intellect. Unlike the denizens of the earlier age of luxury and
repletion, he stood a thinking man, refreshed, invigorated, and ready
for work; and quickly he applied himself; called forth his kinsman; his
voice was heard throughout the land; men awoke everywhere and wrought
in the ateliers of the new life.

Through the air came strains as of music, from creaking of timber,
cracking of stone, the carol of the painter, hammer and anvil, plashing
oar, wheel and shaft, mallet and chisel, and with the new demand upon
the gem-engravers came--the Oratorio of the Renaissance.

With this awakening came another influx of skilled artisans into Italy,
not to compete, as before, in the great established art market of the
world. Now they came in response to appeals for master-workmen, came to
instruct, to encourage the new birth; to lead the drowsy ones out into
the full light of day, the day of a rising constellation in which once
more shone brilliantly a meritorious school of gem-engravers.

Though Germany, France, and other nations shared in the work, Italy
guarded the cradle of the Renaissance, and as a faithful, loving
parent, watched the developing features of the youth, which grew apace,
reading there the promise of a growing power that was destined to lead
future generations to excellence and prosperity in art.

Italy accomplished the first great work of this period by furnishing
models for both industrial and fine arts, infusing vitality into other
nations. The influential families of the Medici and Farnese, Popes Leo
X. and Paul III., many cardinals and nobles, were instrumental in the
revival of gem-engraving; especially Lorenzo de Medici contributed to
its redevelopment and growth by inducing artists to devote themselves
to its practice and bestowing on them his liberal patronage.

The vigorous manner of artists of this period is so marked that even in
the reproduction of antique designs a connoisseur can recognize their
peculiar style. Their original works are highly meritorious, attaining
a great degree of excellence. Many rose to eminence; some, not content
with rising in the firmanent of the dawning effulgence, aspired to
positions in the bright constellation of fame, producing engraved gems
for the ornamentation of costumes, armor, inlaying and embossing of
vases, tankards, etc.



Constant encouragement was given to this branch of art-industry
throughout the fifteenth and part of the sixteenth century; but after
the death of the Emperor Charles V., in 1558, recurred another period
of decline. Private and royal accumulations of art works were again
the victims of depredation; cabinets and museums were pillaged and
scattered by military marauders, as one after another the great cities
of the Continent of Europe were besieged and conquered.

The glyptic, of all the arts, was the most easily affected by the
changing fortunes of nations.

These circumstances compelled artists to give their attention more
particularly to church architecture, to the production of large
devotional basso-rilievos for the altar, and sculptured figures, which,
though representing sacred subjects, were often too voluptuous in form,
and lacking the essential qualities of true art.

In the last twenty years of the eighteenth century gem-engraving
received fresh impetus; new practitioners were enrolled from Germany,
England, and France.

Some of these resided many years in England, pursuing their profession
assiduously and profitably. In this period quantities of intaglios
and cameos were reproduced from the most salable antique subjects. To
supply the wants of enthusiastic amateurs frauds were freely committed,
by close imitation, and the insertion of signatures of celebrated Greek
and Roman engravers, though the age produced artists of the highest
ability and honor.

The works of Natter, Sirletti, Pickler, Marchand, Pistrucci,
Santarelli, and others come to us so directly from their hands that
we feel they almost belong to our day, and we think of them as of


Many of the gems of Giovanni Pickler compare favorably with the
finest incisions of the Greek, and even with the work of the renowned

During the latter part of the eighteenth century and the commencement
of the nineteenth, monarchs and noblemen indulged in making collections
of gems to such an extent that the list of patrons increased
competition, and fabulous prices were obtained from such buyers as the
Empress Catherine II. of Russia, the Prince Frederick of Prussia, the
Duke of Orleans, George III., the Empress Josephine of France, and
many of the English nobility, among others the Dukes of Devonshire and

Almost until now no plea has been offered for glyptology as a factor
contributing historical data. The mass of scientists have been
contented with musty old volumes, and these little message-bearing
stones have been regarded as nothing more than curious ancient articles
of luxury, yet you will remark we do not look on them in that light; we
recognize, as we justly should, each and every piece as part of a great
story, recording and illustrating many epochs and eras in this world’s
history, and patiently we have been seeking to replace each fragment
into its proper place in the inscribed diagram, until we are convinced
that we read thereon many things that no manuscripts or books have
communicated to us.


My entire collection in the Free Museum of Science and Art of the
University of Pennsylvania must be examined to see types of all these
epochs. It may be well to notice here three or four very remarkable
gems of which monographs have also been published.


Ariadne is seated on the rocks of Dia, where Bacchus found her; at her
feet is her panther. Bacchus bears in his hand a thrysus; his javelin
with its point in the form of a pine cone; his head wreathed with ivy
and grape leaves; his hand lovingly placed on sad Ariadne’s shoulder,
who has just been deserted by Theseus. Bacchus, deeply in love (which
is indicated by the figure of Cupid), says to her, “I shall care
for thee.” The panther at the feet of Ariadne is emblematic of the
principal and most important incident in her life, her love for Theseus.

Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, King of Crete. She fell in love with
Theseus when he went as one of the seven youths whom the Athenians were
obliged to send every year with seven maidens to Crete to be devoured
by the Minotaur.

Ariadne provided Theseus with a sword with which he slew the Minotaur,
and with a thread which enabled him to find his way out of the
labyrinth; they then fled to the island of Naxos (Dia), where Theseus,
warned by a god in a dream, deserted her. Bacchus arrived opportunely
from India, finding Ariadne in a state of grief and consternation,
which even added to her charming beauty; he quenched her tears,
consoled her, and took her to himself. This exquisite gem is a fine
representation of Renaissance work (see plate on p. 81).


Among examples of antique glyptic art, by referring to my late work on
“Engraved Gems: Their Place in the History of Art,” you will find an
extended notice of the superb ancient cameo on chrysoprase of Jupiter
Ægiochus. It is the eighth of importance in the remarkable antique
cameos that have been preserved from the early centuries after Christ.
It is of remarkable dimensions, being 167 millimetres in height by 130
millimetres in breadth.

It is of the close of the epoch of Marcus Aurelius or the earlier years
of the reign of Commodus. The style is that of the Græco-Roman art. The
work is very beautiful for that epoch, and there rests in this head of
the master of the gods an accent of grandeur in which one feels the
reflection of the original Greek of the better centuries, imitated here
by the engraver of the Græco-Roman age.




It is an interesting circumstance, which merits particular attention,
that the cameo Zulian coming from Ephesus and this Jupiter Ægiochus are
certainly of the workmanship of Asia Minor.

Early in this century this cameo made part of the celebrated Northwick
Collection of England. Afterwards it was acquired by a wealthy
connoisseur in France, and later passed into the possession of M.
Feuardent, Paris, when, with his permission, an engraving of it
appeared, with five quarto pages of text and notes, in the _Gazette
Archæologique_, Paris, 1877, edited by Baron J. De Witte, Membre de
l’Institut and François Lenormant.

M. Adrien Longperier, the distinguished glyptologist and savant of the
Institut de France, some thirty years ago made a study of this gem,
and seriously contemplated its acquisition for France; he urged the
French Government to authorize its purchase for the collection in the
Salle des Pierres gravées in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, or for
the Museum of the Louvre. Several other museums also negotiated for
its purchase, but the late owner being firm in his demand, the price
caused them to delay, and now it belongs to America, being part of my


Among the most important and interesting antique gems in my collection
is one engraved when Constantine held the Roman Empire in Byzantia,
which came into the possession of the Court of Russia.

The Empress Catherine II., wishing to confer a great favor and special
reward on an ambassador to her court from her remarkable collection in
the Museum of the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, presented this antique
gem to him in 1785. Twenty-five years afterwards, at his death in
Greece, it was sold, and was piously guarded during thirty years by a
collector in the Hellenic peninsula. After that it became the property
of Bieler in Styria.

I came into possession of this remarkable gem after more than five
years’ negotiations with its owner, and subsequently with his heirs.

It is a cameo of great importance in itself. Prof. C. W. King, of
Trinity College, Cambridge, England, said, “It is by far the most
important of all similar works of the Lower Empire hitherto published.”

It is of very considerable dimensions (6 × 4 inches), being the
eleventh in point of magnitude of those already existing in any
cabinet. It is a maculated sard, dark-reddish amber color, with slight
white, dark sepia, and burnt sienna spots or maculation.

The subject is a Triumph of Constantine. This portrait of that
Byzantine Emperor is considered very faithful. As I have often
remarked in connection with the numismatic phase of my subject, we can
in this case establish the likeness of Constantine by confronting it
with the fine gold coins of his realm and reign.


Among the auxiliary figures on the gem is Constantine’s mother Helena,
she who found the true cross; also Crispus his son, and his wife Fausta.

The Emperor is being crowned by a Victory, who stands behind him borne
in a triumphal car, the four horses walking and led by a soldier in
front. Constantine holds the reins in his left hand, but in his right a
roll of paper (volumen), instead of the customary eagle-tipped sceptre.

In the front of the group is a standard inscribed “S. P. Q. R.,” the
bearer of the staff being concealed by the horses of the car; as are
also the lictors, whose fasces are seen elevated in the air above the
horses’ backs, in the upper field of the composition. Behind the car
stands Crispus and Fausta, both in front face; Crispus is pointing to
the labarum, and evidently relating to Fausta all the circumstances of
its introduction into the scene. At the opposite end of the gem stands
Helena, who, with the soldier leading the quadriga, forms a balance to
the other pair.

Much labor and skill have been expended by the artist upon the face of
the triumphing Cæsar, in order to leave no doubt as to his identity,
and with such success that the well-known Augustus-like profile of
Constantine may be recognized at the first glance.


We have found here unquestionably information not to be obtained
from any other source. If ancient engraved stones had never been
unearthed or found, we would have been ignorant to-day of much that
is interesting and important concerning the historic chain which
now connects us with the traditions of men in the incipiency of art
thousands of years before the era of manuscripts.

We hold and esteem the Holy Bible not only as our guide and as the book
of God’s laws, but also as one of the most perfect compends of the
history of the world from all known time. The earliest mention of the
profession of gem-cutting is in the thirty-first chapter of Exodus,
from the first to the fifth verse, inclusive:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name
Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in
understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to
devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and
in cutting of stones, to set them,” etc., “and to work in all manner
of workmanship.” This commission was for the Jews to adorn the ark of
the testimony and to attach to the Esod a part of the vestiture of the
grand sacerdotal of the Israelites. Our observation of this branch of
art has been strictly in accordance with our intended plan.

We have regarded almost solely all these beautiful stones in the light
of art, with a view of considering their comparative art-merits; yet
I have always seen in their history another and somewhat important
phase, to me an interesting one: that is, their connection with the
traditions, legends, and annals of religion. We find on them tenets of
paganism, mysticism, mythology, and the Christian religion--symbols,
dogmas, and pictured revelations of creeds of many nations and of
people almost otherwise unknown--what may indeed be classified as
religious stone-literature.

Skilful utilization of the colored strata and maculation of onyxes and
agates depict fire and water as objects of adoration; altars rendered
sacred by their inscriptions, each with its patron god upon it or
hovering near; characters there inscribed telling to whose service they
were dedicated--now to a supreme being beloved, though absent; again,
to a deity adored, though unseen.

Every tribe seems to have had a Father above, though we do not meet
with the vague superscription, “To the unknown God.”

On every side objects of veneration: the heavens; innumerable mention
of deities dwelling therein; plenteous aspirations and appeals to their
clemency, forbearance, and protection.

These talismanic gems, whenever they are religiously inscribed, I
treasure as tablets of faith--a faith which, though often erroneously
placed, was fervent and abiding as it was indelibly registered.

Rambling in many strange countries, seeing palaces, costumes, men,
and manners, this subject, paramount to them all, has often received
my attention--a theme the most precious to the scattered races of the
human family, their religion. It is worthy of remark that so large a
proportion of the intaglios and seals were of a religious character.

The ancient residents near the sea and on all the frontier of Asia
Minor had their religious token-gems.

In this day of enlightenment naturally we are astonished that men
could have believed in these gods or in such theories and dogmas, and
expressing astonishment that they could have trusted in these talismans
or hoped for benefits from them. We wonder at the absurd codes of
mythological religion; yes, let us call it so; that is what it was for
these people; they knew not our God, they had never heard of our divine

Until the revelation of Christ to us, man naturally had to look
somewhere for refuge for his soul; he had to cling to some unseen hand,
lest he should fall.

Do we often realize what modern Christianity is? These pagans, of whose
religions we have so many little stone monuments, were all anterior to
and existed during ages before that revelation.

Christians of to-day, reflect: all these heathen, as you no doubt
esteem them, were earnest in the performance of their duties, their
prayers, their adoration, and their sacrifices--many of them more
devout than some of us under the light of the twentieth century.

True, these religions were the inventions of men, the outcome of the
longings and yearnings of sympathetic men for a superior guiding and
protecting power--Deity, if you will allow it--to which to turn and in
which to hope.

They worshipped faithfully, adored sincerely, obeyed implicitly,
lived simple lives, in keeping with their primitive faith. Was it not
reasonable, this worship of a people who had no divine revelation?
Was it not beautiful? Can you not even now see something to admire
in devotional exercises held in God’s open air, turning in adoration
myriads of earnest eyes upon the Sun, “the beauty and the glory of the
day,” devoutly praising from the heart the majesty and the power of
the Supreme Being, the Maker and the Ruler of this benign light? Their
principal fête, on which they all assembled joyfully and gratefully to
bow before the glorious orb, was on the same day we have accepted as
the anniversary of the birth of Christ our Redeemer.

And so it was with those who venerated and carried engraved emblems of
those incomprehensible elements, Fire and Water.

As symbolic of the inscrutable power the Parsees keep a flame
constantly burning upon an altar in the inner temple; so sacred is
it that only the higher priests set apart for that service can
enter therein; yet through their mediation thousands participate
in the ceremony and enjoy the consolation of its power--a force of
terrible destructibility, yet with the genial phase which comforts and
contributes to the nourishment of man. This form of worship originated
in Persia, and when its disciples emigrated and distributed themselves
throughout many countries and islands of India and the shores of the
neighboring seas, they carefully carried the sacred fire with them;
and it is believed it has never ceased to burn during many centuries.
Red and spotted maculation in agates have been utilized by incisori to
represent the flame of an altar fire.

Even to this day many of these objects in stone are treasured and
valued by men and women in secluded villages in the East; they hold
and guard them as religious heirlooms. I have bartered with them
successfully, and have bought their bracelets, finger-rings, and
nose-rings; yet so highly have these sacred talismans been esteemed
that those which I most desired have rarely and only with difficulty
been obtained from their superstitious possessors.

In the two or three centuries succeeding the advent of Christ the
Abraxas flourished and engraved the mass of religious mystic talismans
(already described in their place in this book). Their priests or
pastors, in the term accepted by us, prepared these amulets, engraving
upon them attributes and symbols of the Most High; they taught their
followers to wear them close to their hearts, these reminders of their
heavenly Father, these rude glyptic lights that kept them nearer to
God. I do not, cannot, find it absurd. When you have considered this
subject as now presented, you will perhaps view with new interest these
devotional tokens, after many years of travel and research brought
together and classified in my cabinet.



A large class of ancient seems were historical. In my collection may
be found a series of cameos, all works of the most able artists of the
epoch of Trajan, which are now esteemed in Rome as works of the highest

They portray the pleasures of the hunting expeditions, the wars, and
other incidents in the life of Trajan and Titus Vespasianus.

These cameos were the subjects of the _basso-rilievos_ which ornamented
a triumphal arch erected in honor of Trajan.

In the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Romans despoiled this
monument of all these subjects tributary to Trajan, and adorned with
them the arch which they then built for Constantine. It was said in
those days no emperor had ever equalled Constantine in building up the
Empire, and therefore they did not hesitate to dismantle a monument of
his predecessor.





An interesting historic cameo is Coriolanus visited by his mother
Veturia and his wife Volumnia. His original name was Marcius, but on
account of his valor in a contest against the Volscians he was surnamed
Coriolanus. In the time of a famine he was impeached for his
opinions in regard to the distribution of corn received from Sicily; he
was condemned to exile. He now went over to the Volscians, and became
general of their army, and successfully attacked the Romans; they,
fearing him, made advances to him and offered the restoration of all
his property and franchises; he resisted all their propositions. It was
not until his mother and wife came to him that he could be induced to
relent; their prayers and tears, however, moved him; he then retired
with his army, but passed the remainder of his life with the Volscians,
who had honored him for his valor and not from fear. The guard with a
shield at the right is a Volscian, and he at the left is a Roman.


Observe in my collection an allocution of Marcus Aurelius before the
Prætorian Guard: the guard are not only known by their costume, but by
the banner which is marked S. C. (_Senatus Consultum_).

No incidents in ancient history are more interesting or more dramatic
than the episodes in the life and career of fair Cleopatra; one of
the most vivid to my fancy’s recollection is the scene of her fatal
giving up of that romantic life as depicted on a beautiful turquoise
cameo--No. 346.

It is well understood that many of the cameos concerning Christ are
truly historical. There is also Horatius defending the bridge. The
bridge was on the Tiber at Rome; Horatius was fighting the Etruscans;
the Romans were obliged to destroy their end of the bridge, when
Horatius with his horse swam back.

True, we have history through classic Latin sources of the most
important events of the first and second centuries. Yet these
portraitures on stone, executed in the very epochs, add certainly great
interest to the records of these times. The subjects on stone alluded
to, mirror to us more faithfully, more vividly, scenes in the lives of
several Roman emperors than any manuscript possibly could have done.

We have Trajan as emperor, judge, and warrior. We see him engaged in
conflict, we admire him victorious, we rejoice in his happy return to
Rome on several occasions; in his triumphant reception both by the
people and the army, and in the arches erected as souvenirs of his
prowess; in his dignified reception of the son of the King of the
Armenians, and in his condescension in restoring their kingdom; in
several of his expeditions against the Dacians, and in his happy
escape from the plot of Decebalus. We have instances of his public
charities delicately depicted in cameo; his religious sacrifices;
his exploits as a hunter of many wild animals, the boar and the lion
included, are exemplified. We have several beautiful groups with
emperors delivering allocutions before the cohorts of their armies,
senators, and other dignitaries; the triumphant entry of Titus
Vespasianus into Jerusalem, whereon twenty-two figures are visible,
and the exit from Jerusalem of his victorious army, on which nineteen
figures are seen; also the groups of Jewish prisoners.


[Illustration: 1339]

[Illustration: 1350]

[Illustration: 1351]

[Illustration: 1349]


All these pages in my stone book are certainly interesting additions to
ancient history.


We have seen how large a proportion of the subjects on ancient gems
were mythological, how extended was the class of religious and of
Christian subjects; we have noted the loved portraits of sovereigns,
statesmen, philosophers, physicians, and poets.

There remains a series worthy of notice--those intaglios and cameos
worn as amulets on which were engraved innumerable animals, birds,
fishes, and even insects.

As the families of the nobility chose the insignia which entered into
the quarterings of their escutcheons, so the ancients according to
their superstitions or their tastes chose some patron animal or bird
for an emblem and caused it to be engraved on their talismans; and
these symbols were cherished with what might almost be termed religious

They were used as amulets, supposed to protect the wearers against
accident and to repel danger. There was almost a pharmacopœia of gems,
with solace for every trouble of mind and a remedy for every disease.

A dolphin, the mariner’s friend, on sard or carnelian, was an emblem
worn by fishermen, and was believed to protect them from the attacks of
sharks or other voracious fishes. They also carried with equal reliance
the same design in antique paste.

The eagle of Jupiter is symbolic of his power, although it was
subservient to him. This no doubt accounts for its appropriation in
heraldry by sovereigns.

The raven, the friend of Apollo; the parrot, a loquacious inebriate, is
often an attendant on Bacchus.

The aringa, a fish of the Adriatic Sea, represented on a talisman in
my collection, was worn by women on account of its being the symbol of
fruitfulness; it deposits many thousand eggs each year.

Certain insects, arachnids, and reptiles were employed as symbols,
because they were supposed to protect man in each case from the enemy
thereon delineated.

A scorpion on a transparent stone was an amulet against the sting of
the arachnid.

As the scorpion inflicts a painful sting, the spider a venomous bite,
and a variety of flies make dangerous aggression on the human form,
their images engraved on stones were believed to shield the wearer from
the ills due to attacks from corresponding insects.

One of the most minute insects employed as a talisman is the ant,
symbolic of industry.

The peacock frequently appears on gems; naturally, no one would have
had it as an emblem of vanity, in which sense it is generally accepted
in modern times, but it was revered as the favorite of Juno.

The owl: Minerva’s head is at times draped with an owl; its connection
with Minerva is that it is symbolic of profound meditation.

Beautiful storks occur frequently on engraved gems: they were so
abundant in Asia Minor and in the Byzantine Empire that husbandmen
sought to frighten them away; yet in other lands they were almost
adored. In modern Fünen, and generally in Scandinavia, storks building
their nests on the roofs of houses in the country are welcomed as
bringing children for the household, and are cared for with a credulity
equalling pagan superstition.

The frog has sometimes found a place in Christian symbolism as the
most expressive image of the resurrection of the body, because frogs,
like the serpents after their winter interment, emerge from their
hiding-places and renew their youth by casting their slough.

Many farm and house companions figure in the series: a dog, fidelity; a
cock, vigilance; a turtle, always at home; a snail, there is no hurry;
a sheep, humility; a lamb, innocence; a horse, patience and endurance;
a dove, harmless, the Holy Spirit; a lion, majesty and force; a
serpent, wisdom, and, with its tail in mouth, eternity; a serpent was
often represented on the stone above the fireplace in Roman kitchens; a
ram was significant of the Nundine sacrifices made weekly to Jupiter;
a lion and a goat driven by Cupid, the power of love: he guides not
only the lascivious, but the strong.



The Antique Pastes are interesting from the fact that they present
us with many curious mythological subjects not always to be found on
semi-precious stones. They are specimens of a branch of early Roman

They were made in imitation of Oriental stones, of which the supply was
inadequate for the great demand of the first and second centuries A.
D., and also as a matter of economy. Often in ancient times a quantity
of fragments of hard semi-precious pebbles too small to be engraved
were pulverized, and the sand or granulated mass was fused in crucibles
just as glass is made. This process enabled many lovers of the art to
possess examples in this cheaper artificial substance when the same
subjects on real India stones were commanding exorbitant prices. Some
of these gems are beautifully opalescent and iridescent.

This iridescence, though so beautiful on the specimens of that kind, is
only owing to chemical action on the paste gems during the centuries
they have been buried in the earth. Interesting intaglios and cameos in
enamel have withstood the wear of ages, and are in better condition;
the imitations of red jasper are wonderful.


[Illustration: 1183]

[Illustration: 1244]

[Illustration: 1288]


Many intaglios in antique paste are representations in designs of
ancient bronzes, of which we have no other trace except their mention
by early historians.

The most precious antique example in paste is the Portland Vase. It
was discovered in the sixteenth century in a sarcophagus within the
monument of the Emperor Alexander Severus and his mother, Julia Mamæa,
on the Frascati road, about two miles and a half from Rome. It was long
known as the Barberini Vase, having belonged to that family in Rome
for two hundred years; thence it came to England in the last century,
and after twice changing ownership, at the death of the Duchess of
Portland, from whom it takes its name, it was sold to the Duke of
Marlborough, and is now in the British Museum. It has been broken and
mended. It is about ten inches high, and at the broadest part six
inches in diameter. It was formed of paste, and afterward engraved.

The paste is in imitation of onyx, in two strata, white upon blue, of
an amethyst tinge; the figures are cut in relief on the lighter color,
the blue forming the second plane or background.

Though the antique paste cameos and intaglios are largely reproductions
of subjects also found engraved on pietradura, we are indebted to this
class of gems for many examples of ancient cameos and intaglios which
we would otherwise never have seen; in fact, from the rare beauty of
some specimens in paste, they never could have existed in any other

Not only do both intaglios and cameos in antique paste present us with
the choicest examples of miniature art, but the iridescence created on
them by time frequently renders them the most beautiful specimens in a



Through the possession of these Pagan cameos and intaglios we have
become heirs to the most thorough knowledge of Mythology.

Hundreds of distinct specimens may be gathered from glyptic work
centuries before Christ, and so arranged as to form several
genealogical trees.

In Mythology there is not one single ancestor of all, as in the
biblical history, where Adam is honored with being our original and
only progenitor and equally censured with being the testator of
our legacy of all human ills. The myriad bigamist ancestors of the
countless mythological beings pictured on ancient gems have created
and bequeathed to us numerous families of celestial and terrestrial
divinities, denizens of earth, air, and water, and hundreds of
grotesque chimeras.

Like the royal families of our sphere, there was much intermarriage of
close relatives, many of their offspring bearing at times the forms of
animals, birds, and anon reptiles. Some of their descendants were even
metamorphosed in those tropical climes into trees, under the cooling
umbrage of which other scions were born and commenced their adventurous

These poetical conceptions were the mythological forerunners of the
simpler, purer, diviner religion which was eventually given to man.
A close observer may find in these legendary myths antetypes of the
omnipotent Godhead now revealed to us and in which is our sure hope and



The Chinese are the only race producing glyptic work in relief on hard
Jade, and also on stones resembling it--in which one is easily deceived.

They are said to be good copyists: all designs given to them for
reproduction are copied very closely, but in what we find on engraved
stones there is the type of their nationality; it resembles nothing
else. Their work is mostly in very low relief, on Nacre, Jade,
Amethyst, and Agalmatolite.

Their pictured stones generally represent hideous animals, birds,
fruits, and views of paradise with figures of grotesque divinities.
Their inscriptions are not deeply incised, but are usually letters or
characters in their language in relief.

The exquisitely beautiful details often exhibited by the Chinese are
surprising, especially when we consider the hardness of the Jade, the
material principally employed by them.

What patience it must have required to cut those ornaments in Jade
which we find on their scepters and on the handles of their official
swords! Many pieces which are shown in museums have cost years of
laborious engraving. Jade has therefore been esteemed by the Chinese
as emblematic of all virtue.

In this connection it may be remarked that the Burmese and the
Siamese have seldom engraved on any stones harder than Alabaster
or Agalmatolite (Chinese figure stone). Their subjects principally
represent Buddha; occasionally his two feet; their emblematic flowers,
and their deeply-revered sacred Bôdhi-tree at Gaya.



[Illustration: 659]



The American Continent has contributed some unique work executed by the
Aztecs anterior to the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Among the existing glyptic relics of nations we find no examples of
execution in stone-engraving more peculiar than what has been preserved
of the work of the Aztecs or Mexicans, especially that done before the
occupation by Pizarro.

The character of their work is so crude and distinct that no close
observer can for a moment be mistaken in detecting its origin.

I have met with Aztec engraved stones among a miscellaneous collection
offered to me for selection; there was that quality which enables a
connoisseur to recognize the class of ornamentation doubtless worn by
that people whom Prescott represented as decorated principally by gold,
silver, and feathers.

Large pieces, cameos of two and a half to three inches, have been
found which were worn by the Incas as breast ornaments, and are always
pierced, which shows that they were suspended from the neck.

In fact, some of the most faithful representations of costume,
head-dress, and weapons are in _basso-rilievo_ engraved stones in
opaque white Alabaster and pale-green hard Nephrite.



We have much to enjoy as we survey the gems of the various epochs. The
multifarious types that have been gathered in forty centuries meet our
view, grouped in the tableau of engraved gems.

Our attention is drawn with interest to each sentiment expressed,
feature defined, or emotion portrayed. We study the diversified
qualities--the fineness or freedom of touch, ingenious effects,
delicate lines, choice attitudes, graceful forms, force, spirit, and
tenderness--which characterize these monuments of patience.

The engraved gems rescued from the torrent, ebbing and flowing with
the fluctuating fortunes of ages, garnered by successive generations,
enrich the traditional viaduct traversing the morass of many centuries.
Some blocks are less beautiful than others in the structure, but from
them we have founded our first footholds, and from them we mount to the
work that embellishes the great Etruscan arches even when we revel on
the finely pencilled coping-stones of the Greek and Roman epochs, or
admire the ornate abutments of the Renaissance, we should revert with
pleasure to the earlier, ruder contributions in the foundations, and we
can find pleasure in viewing and studying every part.

The builder’s stones are graven--the footway is of pictured pebbles,
miniatures, amulets, and seals, reflecting lineaments and traces of the
history of entombed generations. Their inscriptions reveal to us the
impress of ancient, mediæval, and modern art.



  Abraxas or Gnostics, 58-62, 102
    Talismans, 58, 102

  Agalmatolite, 123

  Amethyst, 123

  Amulets, 112

  Animals and Birds, 112-115

  Ant, the, as a talisman, the most minute, 113

  Antique Pastes, 116-120

  Apollo, 66

  Aringa, the, a fish of the Adriatic Sea, 113

  Ashurna Sirbal, King of Assyria, palace of, 22

  Asshur (Assyrian), Supreme God, 32

  Assyrian Records, 39

  Astarte, 66

  Aztec or Mexican, 127-128

  Bacchus and Ariadne, 89-90

  Basilidians, 62

  Beltis Mylitta (Assyrian), the Great Mother, 32

  Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 72

  Bôdhi-tree at Gaya, 124

  British Museum, London, 72, 119

  Buddha, 124

  Byzantine, 68-75
    Period, 11

  Cameos, 55, 68, 72, 87, 89, 90, 94, 104, 112, 116, 119, 127
    Historical, 55, 104
    Religious, 11

  Catharine II., Empress of Russia, 87, 94

  Charles V., Emperor, 86

  Chinese, Burmese, and Siamese, 123-124
    Figure-stone, 124

  Christ, Century of, 11
    Heads of, 75

  Cleopatra, beautiful Turquoise Cameo, 108

  Commodus, 90

  Constantine, Emperor, 68, 71, 94, 104
    Baptism of, 72
    Conversion of, 72

  Coriolanus, interesting Historic Cameo, 104

  Crispus, Son of Constantine, 97

  Cylinders, Babylonian, 14, 25
    Brazil, 32
    Chaldean, over 4000 years old, 25
    Found in ruins of Um Kir, 35
    Nineveh, 32
    Oldest form of Seals, 25
    Persian, 12
    South American Indians, 32

  Cypselus, box of, 48

  Decebalus, plot of, 111

  De Witte, Baron J., 93

  Dioscorides, 87

  Dolphin, a, the Mariner’s Friend, 113

  Duaoumautew, 19

  Duke of Devonshire, 88
    of Marlborough, 88
    of Orleans, 87

  Early Christians, 65-67
    Gems of, 65

  Egypt, 16-21
    Temples of, 12

  Egyptians, 39
    Records, 39

  Emperor Caracalla, 13
    Constantine, 13, 68, 71, 72, 94, 104
    Tiberius, 13

  England, 86

  Engraved Gems for Ornamentation, 85
    Quality of Execution, 11, 13
    Pietradura, 65, 119

  Etruscans--Etruria, the, 36-40
    Country of Ancient, 36
    Inscriptions, 39
    Tombs of, 36

  Farnese Family, 84

  Fausta, Wife of Constantine, 68, 97

  Faustina, 13

  Feuardent, M., Paris, 93

  Frog, the, 114

  Gazette Archæologique, Paris, 93

  Gem-cutting, earliest mention of, 98

  George III., King of England, 87

  Giovanni Pickler, works of, 87

  Glyptology, 14

  Græco-Roman, 52, 56, 90

  Greece, 44-52

  Helena, Mother of Constantine, 68, 97

  Hilprecht, Prof. H. V., 22

  Historic Cameos, 55, 104-111

  Holy Family, token Cameos and Intaglios of, 68

  Horatius defending the Bridge, 108

  Imperial Collection, St. Petersburg, 72

  Incas, Breast Ornaments, 127

  Incisori, 51, 66, 71, 72, 102

  Intaglios, 32, 44, 48, 52, 55, 68, 72, 77, 87, 100, 112, 116, 119

  Jade, Chinese, 123

  Jewish Prisoners, 111

  Josephine, Empress of France, 87

  Jupiter Ægiochus, 90, 91
    the Eagle of, Amulet, 113

  King, Prof. C. W., 94

  Lenormant, Francois, 26, 93

  Longperier, M. Adrien, 93

  Mamæa, Julia, Mother of Alexander Severus, 119

  Marchand, works of, 87

  Marcius, Original Name of Coriolanus, 104

  Marcus Aurelius, 90, 107

  Mediæval, 76-79

  Medici Family, 80, 84
    Lorenzo de, 84

  Mercury, 66

  Message-bearing Stones, 88

  Middle Ages (Night of Art), 76

  Minerva, 114

  Minos, King of Crete, 89

  Minotaur, at Crete, 90

  Monks, work of, 77

  Museum, British, 72, 119
    of the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, 94
    of the Louvre, Paris, 93
    University of Pennsylvania, 16, 22, 89

  Mycenæ, 51

  Mythological, 121-122

  Nacre, 123

  Natter, works of, 87

  Naxos (Dia), Island of, 89, 90

  Nephrite, 128

  Night of Art, 12, 76, 79

  Northwick Collection, England, 93

  Osiris, Colossal Stone Figure, 16

  Owl, the, 114

  Parrot, the, Attendant on Bacchus, 113

  Parsees, 101

  Peacock, the, Favorite of Juno, 113

  Persia, 102
    and Babylon, 22-35

  Phœnicia, 43-47
    Cylinders, 43
    Scarabeus, 43

  Pistrucci, works of, 87

  Pizarro, 127

  Pope Leo X., 84
      Paul III., 84

  Portland, Duchess of, 119
     Vase, 119

  Prescott, 127

  Prince Frederick of Prussia, 87

  Publius Lentullus, 66

  Rameses, Colossal Stone Figure, 16

  Raven, the, Friend of Apollo, 113

  Rawlinson, Sir Henry, 35

  Religious Stone Literature, 99
     Tokens, 61, 65, 100

  Renaissance, 80-85
     Cradle of the, 84
     Oratorio of the, 83

  Retrospective, 129, 130

  Roman, 55-57
    Empire in Byzantia, 94
    Gem Engraving, 55

  Royal Collection, Vienna, 72

  Salle des Pierres Gravées, Paris, 93

  Santarelli, works of, 87

  Sapor I., King of Sassanians, 22, 25

  Sardinia, originally Sandaleotis, 44

  Sassanians, 75

  Scarabeus, Egyptian, 20
    Etruscan, 36
    Funereal, 16, 19, 20, 21
    Phœnician, 44, 47

  Scorpion, a, 113

  Scriptural Cameos, 72

  Seals, Assyrian, 26, 31, 32
    Persian, 12, 31
    Phœnician, 44
    Religious, 100
    Sassanian, 31
    Serapis, 66

  Severus, Alexander, Emperor, 119

  Signets of Kings, 25

  Silenus and Bacchus, 78

  Sirletti, works of, 87

  Stone Fetiches, 58

  Storks, 114

  Succeeding Declines and Revivals, 86-88

  Talismans, Abraxas, 58, 62

  Tesseræ, 65

  Tharros, 47

  Theseus, 89

  Thotmes, Colossal Stone Figure, 16

  Titus Vespasianus, 104, 111

  Trajan, 104, 108

  Triumph of Constantine, 94-97

  Um-Kir, Ruins of, 35

  Unique Gems, 72
    Work of the Aztecs, 127

  Venus, 66

  Veturia, Mother of Coriolanus, 104

  Volscians, 104

  Volumnia, Wife of Coriolanus, 104

  Zulian Cameo, 93

[Transcriber’s Note:

List of Illustrations entry: Greek and Roman Intaglio Rings Page 49
corrected to Page 50.

Obvious printer errors corrected silently.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.]

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