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Intaglio - Hercules and Nymphs

Hercules and Nymphs

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    16th century to 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Belli, Valerio, born 1468 - died 1546 (artist)

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr W. L. Hilburgh FSA

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

This intaglio was probably made during the 18th century in imitation of the work of the famous Italian gem-engraver Valerio Belli (about 1468-1546) who worked in Vicenza and Rome and engraved in rock crystal and other hardstones.

Physical description

Oval intaglio of blue lapis lazuli. Figure of Hercules seated on a rock under a tree to right. He is draped in a tunic and holds a club. To the left in front of Hercules a group of three draped figures of nymphs. The nymph on the extreme left holds a cornucopia and the one in the centre of the group holds a wreath out towards the head of Hercules.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


16th century to 18th century (made)


Belli, Valerio, born 1468 - died 1546 (artist)


Height: 51 mm, Width: 40 mm

Object history note

Given by Dr. W L Hildburgh FSA

Historical significance: The subject combines elements from several sources related to the work of Valerio Belli. Similar in general composition to the rock crystal Judgement of Paris (A.23-1942), Hercules here substitutes for the figure of Paris, although his seated figure owes more to images of Hercules at the crossroads (see A.479-1910), the source for which has been suggested to be Michelangelo's slaves on the Sistine chapel ceiling, than to the leaning figure of Paris.

Historical context note

Shows how images from engraved gems and hardstones persisted and were revived during the renaissance and later on in the 18th century.

Descriptive line

Intaglio depicting Hercules and nymphs


Lapis lazuli


Lapidary; Carving; Engraving (incising)


Myths & Legends; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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