This fine intaglio is carved from amethyst, an extremely important gemstone in ancient Greek and Roman culture. The word amethyst comes from the Greek word ἀμέθυστος (amethystos), meaning sober. In ancient Greek and Roman culture, the amethyst gemstone was associated with the god of wine, Dionysus or Baccus. The lady depicted on this fine intaglio might be representing a woman from amongst the Roman elite. This idealised portrait follows the trends set by official portraiture of emperors and empresses depicted on imperial coinage. In this specific case, the hairstyle worn by the figure resembles the one worn by Julia Domna, wife of emperor Septimius Severius.
To discover more about Intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Intaglios: Miniature Masterpieces.