Ca. AD 100-300
A Roman gold signet ring with a left-facing male portrait. The ring is comprised of a D-shaped hoop that is embellished with scrolling acanthus leaf ornamentation, leading to expanded open-work shoulders with two pairs of opposed pelta patterns. Large, oval-shaped bezel set with a dark stone intaglio incised with a portrait of a laureate man. The figure is clean-shaven, with short, cropped hair schematically incised. Individualising details include a large eye, small pointed nose and chin, and large lips.
Signet rings, i.e. rings used for making impressions upon clay, wax, or similar yielding material, have a long and widespread tradition of use. Signet swivel rings from Egypt, the earliest iteration of the type, have been discovered from the 18th Dynasty onwards (1550/1549-1292 BC). The signet ring was also exceedingly popular in Roman times, and the personal devices of many eminent Romans are known to us, such as the armed Venus of Julius Caesar (Dio Cassius. XLIII. 43) or indeed Hadrian's use of his own portrait as a personal device (Ael.Spart.Vit Hadr. 26).
Provenance: Property of a London Ancient Art Gallery; formerly in the famous Alison Barker collection, a retired London barrister; acquired between the early 1960s to 1990s.
ROMAN GOLD RING WITH PORTRAIT INTAGLIO
D: 16.51mm / US: 6 / UK: M; 10.07g