Cupid or Eros (in Greek) is perhaps today's favorite god of the ancient world. Eros and Cupid are often conflated, even in ancient Rome, but they were actually different figures with different "biographies." Just as the fat and mischievous, winged boy's image adorns everything from Valentine's cards to coffee mugs today, he appeared on countless objects in the ancient world, from architecture and painting, to jewelry, like the present cameo. Conveying love, fickleness, and even pain, cupid was also a symbol of triumph.

Substantial D-section hoop gently widening at the shoulder to hold an oblong bezel. The collet setting holds a grey onyx cameo depicts the head of a cupid carved in high relief. Wings appear under the head. The cameo is in superior condition; the setting is modern.


Cameos of Cupid's head appear infrequently in publication in comparison to Medusa head. The two types share some similarities, however, that allow us to offer an approximate date for the present cameo in the the second or third century. Big puffy checks, a round dimpled chin, and closely cropped curls suggest this is a portrait of a child. For similar ancient gems figuring a child's head see: Richter 1956. No. 486 and Head of Eros in the Marlborough Collection (now lost, 143.BFAC). See also Poniatowski collection nos. 2089, 2090, and 2091. The wings underneath the head suggest, however, that this is the figure of Eros. For a similar depiction see the amethyst and carnelian intaglios (79 - N. 49 and 45 I Ba 9) in the Cologne Cathedral Treasury (Zwierlein-Diehl, 1998).


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