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Finally acquired a Roman antiquity, a silver ring


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  • Benefactor

On an on and off basis, mostly off, I've been looking for a Roman antiquity.  Now, there are quite a few ways to go, a figurine, a marble head, ceramic, glass, mosaic, or jewelry, to name a few.  I really was looking for some small but interesting, something that has personality.

Roman intaglio silver rings are pretty common.  Some are very elegantly done, with very skillful and artistic carvings of deities, animals, portraits and figures.  Those are all fine, but I was looking for something out of the ordinary and I think that I found it with this ring.  The preservation is good and the stone, which I think is jasper, has a very imaginative figure, a conglomeration of human, animal and mythological elements.  It doesn't have any apparent chips, fractures, nor do I detect any repairs, using my UV light.

This ring, which turned out to be rather pricey, came out of Roma's E-Sale 100, lot 1737.  This ring came from Altstetten Collection, according to the description.  However, my online search for this collection yielded zilch.  Is anyone familiar with this collection?

Here's the lot description from E-Sale 100:

"Roman Silver and Hardstone Ring. Circa 3rd - 4th Century AD. Octagonally faceted gnostic intaglio, set in silver shank with broad shoulders, engraved with gryllus head, composed of human head with pointed chin, with birds' legs, wearing tall cap in the form of a maned-horse's head holding frond in its mouth. 11.35g, 11mm (intaglio).

Condition as seen.

From the Altstetten Collection, kept in the vault of Crédit Suisse Geneva (documentation available upon request) since 26 November 1969."

The ring itself measures 25mm x 15mm.320855281_D-CameraRomanjasperitaglosilverring3rd-4thcenADstone11mm25mmx15mmring11.33g8-10-22.jpg.842b0259045ae86da1ce9d0302425094.jpg

So, I think this will be my only Roman antiquity.  I need to be careful not to have a monstrous accumulation in the end resembling the warehouse scene at the end of Citizen Kane!

1899042463_CitizenKanewarehousescene8-10-22.jpg.bce0af330244530dfa31a790fcdad416.jpg

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What a wonderful ring! I'm not familiar with the Altstetten Collection but your post roused my curiosity. I googled "gryllus gnosticism" and the first link revealed a similar "talisman" (two-sided intaglio), number 5 on the plate below:

"5. A very popular Gryllus, its components being the emblems of the elements--the Bird standing for air; the Lion for Fire; the Ram's head for Earth, and the Bacchic mark for water. This Pagan talisman has been Gnosticised by Thoth's ibis, with the Holy Names, "Abraxas" and "Iao;" but the work on both sides is evidently from the same hand, and in the style of the fourth century. The material is a rarely-used stone--obsidian." - William King, The Gnostics and Their Remains, 1887.

According to Wiktionary, The word 'gryllus' (γρύλλος) is Egyptian in origin and  refers to a type of Egyptian dance, a performer in such a dance or a comic figure/ caricature generally. In modern usage, 'Gryllus' is the taxonomic genus to which field crickets belong.

One of my interests tangental to ancient coins is the development of early Christianity (including the Gnostics in Egypt). I believe I've found my rabbit hole for the evening.

https://www.sacred-texts.com/gno/gar/gar79.htm

pl_g.jpg

Edited by DLTcoins
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  • Benefactor

Thank you so much!  I bookmarked the link.

So, possibly this intaglio is of eastern (Egyptian) origin?  Or possibly eastern influence in the creation of this intaglio in Rome or elsewhere in Europe?  

As for the intaglio being double sided, I guess that is a possibility, but a remote one, since the stone is mounted flat to the ring's surface, so unless there's an incuse design on the other side I'm pretty sure this intaglio has only one side with a gryllus head design. 

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1 hour ago, robinjojo said:

Thank you so much!  I bookmarked the link.

So, possibly this intaglio is of eastern (Egyptian) origin?  Or possibly eastern influence in the creation of this intaglio in Rome or elsewhere in Europe?  

As for the intaglio being double sided, I guess that is a possibility, but a remote one, since the stone is mounted flat to the ring's surface, so unless there's an incuse design on the other side I'm pretty sure this intaglio has only one side with a gryllus head design. 

I don't know exactly what to make of it. I was assuming your intaglio is one-sided and purposed as a seal rather than a talisman. There seem to be Egyptian connections to the gryllus motif but I imagine it could have been manufactured anywhere in the empire. It's interesting that Roma described your piece as "gnostic" while King describes the gryllus itself as "pagan" but "gnosticised" by the names of the Gnostic archons (deities) Abraxas and Iao on the reverse. Perhaps if you diligently seek the truth, the Archons will lead you to fuller knowledge. 🙂

In the mean time, here is another similar intaglio from the British Museum. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1987-0212-417

canvas.png

Edited by DLTcoins
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  • Benefactor
Posted · Benefactor
On 8/11/2022 at 7:53 AM, robinjojo said:

On an on and off basis, mostly off, I've been looking for a Roman antiquity.  Now, there are quite a few ways to go, a figurine, a marble head, ceramic, glass, mosaic, or jewelry, to name a few.  I really was looking for some small but interesting, something that has personality.

Roman intaglio silver rings are pretty common.  Some are very elegantly done, with very skillful and artistic carvings of deities, animals, portraits and figures.  Those are all fine, but I was looking for something out of the ordinary and I think that I found it with this ring.  The preservation is good and the stone, which I think is jasper, has a very imaginative figure, a conglomeration of human, animal and mythological elements.  It doesn't have any apparent chips, fractures, nor do I detect any repairs, using my UV light.

This ring, which turned out to be rather pricey, came out of Roma's E-Sale 100, lot 1737.  This ring came from Altstetten Collection, according to the description.  However, my online search for this collection yielded zilch.  Is anyone familiar with this collection?

Here's the lot description from E-Sale 100:

"Roman Silver and Hardstone Ring. Circa 3rd - 4th Century AD. Octagonally faceted gnostic intaglio, set in silver shank with broad shoulders, engraved with gryllus head, composed of human head with pointed chin, with birds' legs, wearing tall cap in the form of a maned-horse's head holding frond in its mouth. 11.35g, 11mm (intaglio).

Condition as seen.

From the Altstetten Collection, kept in the vault of Crédit Suisse Geneva (documentation available upon request) since 26 November 1969."

The ring itself measures 25mm x 15mm.320855281_D-CameraRomanjasperitaglosilverring3rd-4thcenADstone11mm25mmx15mmring11.33g8-10-22.jpg.842b0259045ae86da1ce9d0302425094.jpg

So, I think this will be my only Roman antiquity.  I need to be careful not to have a monstrous accumulation in the end resembling the warehouse scene at the end of Citizen Kane!

1899042463_CitizenKanewarehousescene8-10-22.jpg.bce0af330244530dfa31a790fcdad416.jpg

Although I'm very happy you acquired this ring I am very disappointed that it didn't join my collection...

 

I was the bidder that lost to you.

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  • Benefactor
9 hours ago, Egry said:

Although I'm very happy you acquired this ring I am very disappointed that it didn't join my collection...

 

I was the bidder that lost to you.

I'm sorry.  I really don't collect antiquities, being over diversified, and this lot just happened to appear in the Roma auction, quite by chance.  This is really a one-off for me.

I hope that you have many a future success in your bidding activities.

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  • Benefactor
Posted · Benefactor

Haha I don’t collect antiquities either but I always wanted a ring but every one I see is usually such poor condition. I saw this one on Roma and it was mint condition with the provenance as well, I had no idea how much they were worth but kept bidding to get it. Looks like I was the one that bid it up for you unfortunately, but you did get a nice ring. 

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