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Intaglio - Warrior arming

Warrior arming

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Italy (made)

  • Date:

    1st century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved gemstone

  • 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 Byzantine 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, engraved from the variety of pale blue and black agate known as 'nicolo', can be dated by comparison to other gems to the early days of Imperial Rome, and shows a warrior arming for battle.

Physical description

Vertical oval intaglio. Pale blue top layer over black chalcedony. Depicting a full-lenth figure of a warrior arming. He faces right, wearing a cloak, his right leg bent up and his arms reaching down towards his foot. In front of him is a column bearing a helmet, a shield leaning against the base and a spear next to it.

Place of Origin

Italy (made)


1st century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Engraved gemstone


Height: 1.2 cm, Width: 10 mm

Object history note

Part of a large and varied collection of nearly eight hundred objects given to the Museum in 1864 by the Reverend Richard Brooke.

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

Intaglio, oval layered agate, variety 'nicolo', set in 18th century gold ring, depicting a warrior arming, Italy, about 50-150 CE (Graeco-Roman)

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

Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1864. 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. 66
Machell Cox, E., Victoria & Albert Museum Catalogue of Engraved Gems, London, Typescript, 1935, Part 1, pp. 54-5

Production Note

Ring ca 1800-50

Attribution note: Pale blue over black chalcedony


Layered agate; Microquartz; Gemstone; Nicolo; Chalcedony



Subjects depicted

Shield; Column; Warrior; Spear; Helmet


Jewellery; Sculpture


Sculpture Collection

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