The term intaglio refers to a small image that has been engraved into a gemstone and usually set in a piece of jewellery, most commonly a ring. Such artistic form has its origin in Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, with the appearance of cylinder and stamp seals, whereby decorations and patterns were engraved into soft stones. During the Hellenistic period and the early Roman Empire, the art of intaglio reached its apogee, with there being a steady decline in craftsmanship in the late Imperial Rome, until a revival of interest with the Byzantine and during the Renaissance.
The subject used for intaglios are diverse, with depictions of deities being a favourite theme. Minerva is a major component of the Roman pantheon, being one of the three deities in the Capitoline Triad, along with Jupiter and Juno. Her cult evolved from the Etruscan deity Menvra, who was gradually Hellenised during the 3rd-4th century BC and adopted within the Ancient Greek religion as Athena. The Roman Minerva appropriated the Greek iconography and is often depicted wearing a soldier’s helmet and small shield.
To discover more about Intaglios, please visit our relevant blog post: Intaglios: Miniature Masterpieces.