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Description

In the Wellington Collection of gems, there were several intaglios with related images of an eagle holding a wreath in its beak. Some are accompanied with military standards, others include a cornucopia, bow with quiver, Serapis, or personalized motifs. In Roman times these gemstones were worn by Roman legionaries as a mark of their victory and or wishing success in battle. In mythology, the eagle served as the God Jupiter's personal messenger. The Roman author Pliny the Elder describes before 79 AD in his "Natural History" that the eagle was a symbol of Jupiter's authority. Thus, during the ritual of consecration of an Emperor one would be set free, symbolically securing him a place among the Gods after death. The choice of subject may have fascinated Arthur Richard Wellington, 2nd Duke of Wellington. He was the son of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and victor at the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815. His son, the collector of this gem collection, was a military man and politician.  

Gold ring made of two round section hoops which fork at the shoulders and support the oval bezel. Deep tapered sides and a fluted border frame a yellow jasper intaglio: in the center standing on a thunderbolt is the eagle, emblem of the Roman God Jupiter holding in his beak a wreath. On either side are two military standards. The ring is in excellent wearable condition.

 Provenance:

Wellington Collection, formed by Lieutenant General Arthur Richard Wellesley Wellington, 2nd Duke of Wellington (1807-1884), whilst Marquis of Douro (1814 - 1852).

 Exhibited:

The Wellington Collection of gems was shown in its entirety at S.J. Phillips, London, in 1977.

 Literature: 

Published by Diana Scarisbrick, The Wellington Gems, S. J. Phillips, London, 1977, no. 34. An intaglio in red jasper with the same motif and style was found in a Roman Fort, in London and is dated 1st - 2nd century AD (Beazley Archive, no. 40009717). The image suggests that in Roman times the intaglio belonged to a legionary, and the eagle an emblem of the God Jupiter was symbolic of victory. For further gems in the Wellington Collection with this subject matter, see: Scarisbrick 1977, nos. 30-33, 36.  For the history of gem collections during this period, see: Martin Henig/ Mary Whiting/ Diana Scarisbrick, Classical Gems. Ancient and Modern Intaglios and Cameos in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge 1994, pp. XVII-XXIII, especially p. XIX.

R-908

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