A Roman Black Gryllos Ringstone Intaglio, Roman Imperial Period, ca. 1st century CE
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The elliptical black onyx intaglio engraved with a gryllos, or composite of human and animal parts, depicting the upper body of a man merged with the upper body of a wolf.
Grylloi, derived from the Italic word grillo ("freak") and the Latin gryllus ("caricature"), were popular subjects for the ancient Romans. Artists reportedly enjoyed creating these fantastic creatures with all combinations of parts, although certain combinations seemed to be more popular than others. While undoubtedly extremely amusing to the Romans, grylloi served a more serious purpose as well; they were thought to be talismans that acted as protection against the evil eye. Their strangeness was said to "attract the evil eye and thus lessens its force against its victims."
For a related example, see accession number 41.160.655 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of Greek and Roman Art.
Ref: Richter, Gisela M.A., Catalogue of Engraved Gems: Greek, Etruscan, Roman, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1956), p. 114.
Dimensions: US ring size: 9
Condition: A minor chip to the intaglio surface otherwise in very good condition, set in a modern 18k gold ring.
Provenance: Private NYC collection, acquired from the trade, previously in a private UK collection.
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