Ca. 3rd - 4th century AD
A remarkable Roman intaglio featuring Mercury riding a rooster, nestled within a resplendent gold ring. The intaglio features an oversized rooster, portrayed in a left profile, with its tail feathers dramatically fanned out. It carries Mercury, unmistakably characterised by his distinctive attributes of the caduceus staff and the iconic petasos hat. The accompanying gold ring, possibly dating from a later period, has a D-shaped hoop adorned with twisted strands along its entire circuit between raised edges. The finials of the hoop gracefully extend into scrolls embellished with applied spheres, providing an ornate support for the bezel cell adorned with a ropework border.
The lavish use of gold jewellery was not considered socially acceptable during the Roman Republican period and was even barred through sumptuary laws such as Lex Oppia (215 BC), which forbade any woman to possess more than half an ounce of gold. From the Augustan period onwards, these restrictions became more relaxed and costly gold jewellery was made in large quantities in a style heavily influenced by Etruscan and Late Hellenistic artistic traditions.
Provenance: Private London collection, UK art market before 2000.
ROMAN CARNELIAN INTAGLIO WITH MERCURY RIDING A ROOSTER IN A GOLD RING
D: 16.92mm / US: 6 1/2 / UK: M 1/2; 5.94g