Bloodstone cameo with two different sides.
Obverse: a naked figure of a man approaches from the right towards an ox, which is standing behind a reclining naked figure of a man. The latter lies asleep on a ledge of rock. Behind the ox a cluster of trees.
Reverse: between columns and beneath a double arch, the Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin who is kneeling before a prie-dieu. The Virgin turns her head to speak to the Angel. A lily in a vase stands in the centre of the scene; on the left, above the prie-dieu, a dove in a halo. On the entablature an inscription.
2nd or 3rd century (obverse); late 15th century (reverse)
The art of engraving gemstones has been admired since the early days of the Roman empire. It was revived in Europe during the Renaissance, and again in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cameos and intaglios were prized and collected, sometimes as symbols of power and mounted in jewelled settings, sometimes as small objects for private devotion or enjoyment
An intaglio carving is cut into the surface of the material and a cameo is in relief. The art of gemstone carving was known in ancient Greece and Rome and revived in Renaissance Italy, when connoisseurs began to form rich collections of engraved stones.