Close Window

The Felix Gem

Engraved sardonyx gem, AD1-50, probably made in Rome.

A wealth of detail is carved into this small sardonyx intaglio (engraved Gem). The engraver signed his name Felix (Latin: Fortunate) in Greek on the altar in the scene. Also in Greek is the name of a Roman owner, Calpurnis Severus. He used the gem as a seal. It illustrates a crisis in the story of the Greek sack of Troy. Odysseus( wearing a hat) scold Diomedes. Their plan was to undermine Trojan morale by creeping into the city to steal the Palladion, sacred emblem of Troy. But Diomedes killed a guard (whose feet stick out behind Odysseus) and touched the idol with bloodied hands. After this disrespectful act, the Palladion frightened the Greeks into abandoning the siege. Years passed before they conceived the idea of the Trojan Horse and finally captured Troy. The gem was first recorded in 1457 and has been owned by many collectors including Pope Paul II, Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel, George, fourth Duke of Marlborough, Sir Arthur Evans and the Spencer-Churchill family.

Link to Downloadable version of this image.