Greco-Roman Gold Earrings with Garnet African Heads, 2nd Century BC-1st Century AD
The jewelry of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods is among the
finest of the ancient world, unsurpassed in richness of subject matter
and composition, luxurious media and exquisite attention to detail.
This type of African head pendant originates from Greece, from the
third to second century BC. Images of Ethiopians and Nubians were
popular in Egyptian art but were relatively rare in the Mediterranean
world until the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in the late
fourth century BC suddenly exposed the Greeks to the peoples of the
African continent. As part of this new and intriguing Nilotic landscape,
images of Africans evoked the distant and exotic cultures at the edge
of the known world. The popularity of Nilotic themes coupled with a
Greek tradition in jewelry of elaborate figural pendants (for example,
beads, acorns, vessels, and female heads) led to the depiction of
Nubians and Ethiopians as part of the popular repertory of wearable art.
Initially, heads were fashioned wholly in gold, but by the late third
and early second century, semi-precious stones were incorporated into
the composition, as here. Materials rich and warm in color, such as
carnelian, sardonyx, amber, and garnet, were all transformed into
African figures, not only rendering each piece more elaborate, but also
imbuing them with a striking liveliness and depth of character.
The use of gemstones set into gold jewelry remained a popular
practice in the early Roman period; precious stones were said to have
held magical properties and were considered markers of high social
status. Pendants and earrings in the form of African heads seem to have
been particularly popular in Italy, with examples known from Bari and
A pair of gold earrings with the head of an African in garnet is in the
collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (inv. no. 57.1562-3,
circa third century BC), and a similar pair from Cyme, Turkey, is in the
British Museum, London (inv. no. 1877,0910.28, circa fourth to third
century BC). However, these examples are earlier, and lack the clarity
of form and sharpness of carving evident in the present pair.
A set of four ancient Egyptian limestone canopic jars, used for holding organs removed from the deceased during the mummification process. Each of the jars represents one of the four sons of Horus: (L-R)
jackal-headed Duamutef (stomach); baboon-headed Hapi (lungs);
falcon-headed Qebehsenuef (intestines); and human-headed Imsety (liver). Artist unknown; ca. 900-800 BCE (Third Intermediate Period). Found at Abydos; now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry depicting the ba, a human-headed falcon that symbolized one’s unique personality. Artist unknown; 3rd cent. BCE (Ptolemaic period). Now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.
Today I experienced the Baltimore Museum of Art in all its glory: in full color. Colorblindness correcting glasses are truly a necessary and awe-inducing technological advancement. (This is me staring in wonder at Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)).
Poet, author and icon Gertrude Stein was born on this day in 1874.
Stein loved to sit for the artists she knew – a few years ago, there were two concurrent exhibitions of those images at museums in San Francisco, and our own Laura Sydell went to see them – you can find her story here.
Top image: Man Ray/Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery/Contemporary Jewish Museum
Center left: Felix Edouart Vallotton/Courtesy of The Baltimore Museum of Art/Contemporary Jewish Museum
Center right: Man Ray/Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery/Contemporary Jewish Museum
Bottom: George Platt Lynes/Baltimore Museum of Art/Contemporary Jewish Museum
Monet on the Run - 9. Another friend with benefits I guess it took Monet a walk of an hour or less to visit Camille Pissarro, who lived at the Route de Versailles in Louveciennes. Monet returned there a number of times and painted the road in different conditions, as Pissarro was doing too. Look at the resemblance and differences among the bottom 5 of both artists’ oils.
Pissarro and Monet first met as art students in the studio of ‘Père’ Suisse. Now, a decade later, working almost in front of Pissarro’s home gave Monet the opportunity to eat with him. As such, Pissarro definitely was another friend with benefits…
Claude Monet: - Route, effet d’hiver, soleil couchant , December 1869. Oil on canvas, 43x 65. Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la céramique, Rouen, France - Route à Louveciennes, neige fondante, soleil couchant, 1870. Oil on canvas, 40 x 54 cm. Private collection - Route à Louveciennes, effet de neige, 1870. Oil on canvas, 55 x 65 cm. Private collection Camille Pissarro: - La Route de Versailles à Louveciennes, effet de pluie, 1870. Oil on canvas, 40.3 x 56.3 cm. The Clark, Williamsburg MA, USA - La Route de Versailles à Louveciennes, effet de neige, 1869. Oil on canvas, 38.4 x 46.3 cm. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore MD, USA - La Route de Versailles à Louveciennes, 1870. Oil on canvas, 32.5 x 41.1 cm.
The Clark, Williamsburg MA, USA - La Conversation ou La Route de Versailles à Louveciennes, 1870. Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm. Stiftung Sammlung E.G. Bührle, Zürich, Switzerland
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
“My Sister Is Not In” (1879)
Oil on panel
Located in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Alma-Tadema was born in Friesland, Netherlands, but was trained in Belgium. After the death of his first wife in 1870, he moved to London where he developed a reputation for his seemingly accurate reconstructions of genre scenes set in ancient Rome. Here, a Roman maiden closes a curtain in an unconvincing attempt to conceal her sister from a suitor.
Golden pendant with
decoration, bearing a portrait of Alexander the Great. Artist unknown; 4th cent. CE. Found at Aboukir, Egypt; now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.
Ancient Egyptian steatite sculpture of a crocodile with a falcon’s head, representing either the deity Horus the Elder or a fusion of Re with the crocodile god Sobek. Artist unknown; ca. 400-250 BCE (Late Period or early Ptolemaic). Now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.