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Cameo portrait of Augustus
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This cameo was carved from a three-layered sardonyx. The different coloured layers in the gem have been cut away to create a raised image that contrasts with its background. The jeweled headband was added in the medieval period.

The cameo is a fragment of a larger portrait of the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27 BC – AD 14), who emerged as the sole ruler of Rome after a series of bloody civil wars. He is shown in a majestic pose and wears a sword belt, symbolizing his military authority, and the protective aegis (goatskin breastplate) usually attributed to the goddess Minerva. Such a depiction of the emperor assuming a divine attribute was probably only intended to be seen by a few. It could have proved controversial for such an image to be widely circulated, since at this time Roman society was still mistrustful of monarchy, with many hoping for a return to the Republic.

Cameo portrait of Augustus

Roman, c. AD 14 – 20.
Ht. 12,8 cm.
Strozzi and Blacas Collections.

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