Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1865. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 30
Machell Cox, E., Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue of Engraved Gems. London, Typescript, 1935, Part 1, p. 51
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 must be connected with mourning.
In Greek mythology the winged youths Thanatos (Death) and his brother Hypnos (Sleep) were the children of Nyx (Night). Both had attributes - objects traditionally associated with them in images. Hypnos is often shown with an owl and a poppy, denoting night time and the drowsiness induced by the narcotic plant, or with wings attached to his head. Thanatos has an upturned, guttering torch, denoting the extinction of life.