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Cameo - Child's head

Child's head

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 200 BC to 50 BC (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gemstone

  • Credit Line:

    Given by R. C. Lucas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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 cameo takes an unusual viewpoint from slightly above what appears to be a child's head. It is unlikely to be a portrait, as other examples of similar heads exist in other collections. They are thought to date from between 200 BC and 50 BC.

Physical description

Vertical oval cameo. Orange-red translucent carnelian. Depicting a child's head as seen slightly from above. The viewpoint looks down on the top of the head and onto the hair which has a centre parting. Facial features are all visible and occupy the lower half of the stone. In a gold ring.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


ca. 200 BC to 50 BC (made)



Materials and Techniques

Engraved gemstone


Height: 13 mm, Width: 10 mm

Object history note

Given by the British neo-classical sculptor Richard Cockle Lucas in 1865, together with twenty-two ivory carvings, twelve waxes, sixteen other gems, a marble group and a portrait in plaster.

Historical significance: A known type, also occurring in large types, sometimes described as Medusa heads. There are examples of the larger type in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, and of the smaller type in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

Historical context note

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.

Descriptive line

Cameo, oval carnelian, set in a 19th century gold ring, depicting a child's head, Italy, Graeco-Roman, 200-50 BC

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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. 53
Machell Cox, E., Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue of Engraved Gems. London, Typescript, 1935, Part 1, pp. 77-8

Production Note

Attribution note: Orange-red translucent chalcedony


Carnelian; Gemstone; Microquartz; Chalcedony


Gem engraving

Subjects depicted



Jewellery; Sculpture; Portraits


Sculpture Collection

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