Lot 13: Roman Gold Ring with Dionysus Intaglio
December 6, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 2nd century AD. A substantial D-section gold hoop with expanding shoulders, inset carnelian cloison with intaglio image of Dionysus (Bacchus) standing grasping a thyrsus and holding an empty wine cup. Cf. Ruseva-Slokoska, L. Roman Jewellery, Sofia, 1991, item 193 for type. 22 grams, 31mm overall, 19.31mm internal diameter (approximate size British S 1/2, USA 9 1/4, Europe 20.63, Japan 19) (1 1/4"). Property of a Surrey collector; acquired in the early 1970s. Accompanied by a positive X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate. The god Dionysus appears to have his origins in Thrace, from where he later spread to Greece, and later throughout the Roman Empire where he was the principle deity of one of the mystery cults. The beliefs of this cult was one of rebirth as exemplified through the seasonal growth of nature, but also of revelation through ecstasy. Whereas many of the mystery cults were initiations through 'beholding', such as the secrets that were revealed in the mysteries of Isis, those of Dionysus were initiations through action, such as ecstatic worship through alcohol and trance. The myth of Dionysus' origins tells that he was born from the union of Zeus and Persephone. Zeus designated Dionysus Zagreus as his heir, but the jealous Titans lured him away, dismembered him and devoured all the pieces except for the heart, which was rescued by Athena and preserved. Zeus in anger reduced the Titans to ashes, from which the new race of mankind was created. Thus each human contains a fragment of Dionysus within its 'Titanic' earthly body. From the heart of the god was brewed a love potion and given to the mortal Semele, the lover of Zeus. during one of their meetings Semele asked Zeus to reveal his true, primal form. The epiphany was so overwhelming that she was burnt up by thunderbolts, but the child she was carrying was saved. Zeus enclosed it in his loins until the time came for its birth as the second Dionysus. The young god grew up in Thrace, suckled by goats, and raised by the satyr and Silenus. When he reached maturity he descended to the underworld through the Alcyonian Lake to rescue the soul of his mother and raise her to Olympus. After this he travelled throughout the world with a band of satyrs, maenads and other followers, steadily heading East to India, spreading the knowledge of agriculture, arts and crafts and especially of the vine and wine making. Returning from India he discovered the Cretan princess Ariadne, abandoned on the island of Naxos by Theseus. He made her his bride and together they ascended to the heavens, and he offers a similar blissful reward to his devotees, temporarily in this life, and permanently after death. The stone was examined in detail by Dr. Bonewitz who observed: 'The carnelian is very high quality, as is the standard of the carving. A lovely and impressive stone.'
Condition Report: Extremely fine condition. A large wearable size.