List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington, Acquired During the Year 1871, Arranged According to the Dates of Acquisition. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O. p. 45.
Machell Cox, E., Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue of Engraved Gems. London, Typescript, 1935, Part 1, p.46.
Charles W. King, 'Signet of Q. Cornelius Lupus', Archeological Journal, XXIII, June, 1866.
Charles W. King, The Handbook of Engraved Gems, 1866, pp. 200 & 381, fig.3.
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and More Recent Periods, on Loan at the South Kensington Museum, 1862, Section 32, cat. 7,170, p. 627, no.62 (one of two objects numbered 62).
Edmund Waterton, Dactyliotheca Watertoniana: a descriptive catalogue of the finger-rings in the collection of Mrs. Waterton, (manuscript), written at Walton Castle, 1866, pp. 72-4.
Intaglio sealstone with Gallic emblems, oval carnelian, set in gold ring; Italy, around 197 BC
Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Works of Art of the Mediaeval, Renaissance, and More Recent Periods, on Loan at the South Kensington Museum (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/01/1862-31/12/1862)
Sculpture, room 111
Engraved gemstones of all dates were widely collected in Italy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many were brought back by British Grand Tourists, and important collections were formed.
Ex Waterton Collection. Bought by the Museum following inclusion in Christie's sale (undated, not held), lot 114. Edmund Waterton (1830-81) is referred to as one of a group of 'pioneer collectors' by Diana Scarisbrick, 'C.D.E. Fortunum as a collector of rings and gems', C.D.E. Fortnum and the collecting and study of applied arts and sculpture in Victorian England, Ed: Ben Thomas and Timothy Wilson, 1999. His collection of approximately 760 rings, formed with the aim of illustrating the history of rings of all period and types, was acquired by the Museum in 1871 and 1899. Waterton, in 1868 'of Walton Castle, near Wakefield, in the county of York, but now residing at Ostend in the Kingdom of Belgium', got into financial difficulties, and was later to be declared bankrupt. The collection of rings was held as security against a loan by the jeweller Robert Phillips for two years from March of that year. The loan was to be repaid by Waterton by March 1870, but the deadline was not met. Phillips having first contacted the Museum regarding the possible purchase of the rings in 1869, the purchase was recommended by the Board of the Museum in a minute of 20 April 1871. The majority of the rings are held in Metalwork Section, a small number in Sculpture Section. In his manuscript catalogue of his collection Waterton states that he bought this intaglio in Rome in 1860, and had it mounted in England.
Historical significance: In his essay 'Signet of Q. Cornelius Lupus' (The Archaeological Journal, XXIII, June, 1866) Charles W. King considers this gem, then still in the Waterton collection, as the most valuable in historical terms that he has seen. He identifies the two shields as Gallic by their oblong shape and 'barbaric' ornament. The horse's head, too, he recognises as the Gallic national emblem, familiar from coinage. The combination of emblems and inscription are interprated as referring to a victory won by consul Gaius Cornelius Cethegus over the confederate Insubres and Cenomani in 197 BC. Cethegus, appointed proconsul in Spain in 200 BC, was accorded a triumph in Rome for this victory. King deduces that the owner of the sealstone, identified in the inscription, must have also been a member of the high-ranking 'gens' Cornelia, possibly a contemporary of the consul, or even his son. Whoever owned the gem intended to associate himself with his victorious kinsman, and with the great battle. He may even have taken part in it himself.
Horizontal oval intaglio sealstone. Dark brownish-red carnelian. Depicting a trophy of a horse's head facing left, bridled, and two crossed Gallic shields. Inscribed with the name 'Q. Corneli. Lupi'. Set in gold ring.
The art of engraving gemstones can be traced back to ancient Greece in the 8th century BC and earlier. Techniques passed down to the Egyptians and then to the Romans. There were major revivals of interest in engraved gems in Europe during the Byantine era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and again in the 18th and 19th centuries. At each stage cameos and intaglios, these skillful carvings on a minute scale, were much prized and collected, sometimes as symbols of power mounted in jewelled settings, sometimes as small objects for private devotion or enjoyment. This intaglio commemorates the victory of the Romans over two tribes of Gauls in a battle in 197 BCE. The emblems are of the two conquered tribes, identified by their oblong shields with 'barbaric' ornament, and the horse's head, the Gallic national emblem, known from coinage. Gaius Cornelius Cethegus, proconsul, was the victorious leader who overcame the tribes, earning himself a triumphal reception in Rome. This intaglio was probably commissioned and worn by his relative, the Q. Corneli Lupi of the inscription. He may have been a contemporary of the proconsul, or even his son. Whoever owned the gem intended to associate himself with his celebrated kinsman, and with the great battle. He may even have taken part in it himself.