Greco-Persian gems: Persian subjects - domestic

The scenes of Persian men with their women, the women with their children and dogs, or of Persians relaxing, even dancing, are very much in the spirit of Greek Classical art and not at all of eastern art where such low-key personal subjects are quite exceptional. Yet, except for the seated women, they are not subjects exactly matched in the Greek repertoire on gems, where husband-and-wife groups are virtually unknown. The women wear fuller dress than the Greek, are more buxom and have pigtails; the men wear soft flat caps, jackets and trousers.

Gem image

A woman holding an alabastron (perfume vase) and a saucer and small ladle with which she will dispense it.

Berlin F 181, from Megalopolis. Chalcedony scaraboid. 27mm. GGFR pl. 854.

Gem image

A woman, dressed and equipped as the last, approaches her man, seated on a stool. The inscription, a quotation from the Koran, was added later, showing that the stone was being worn also in Islamic times.

Oxford 1921.2. Blue chalcedony scaraboid. 24mm. GGFR pl. 880.

2 Gem images

A. Man and wife. B. A woman holding a flower and a bird with her child.

London, Walters, no. 436, from Cyprus. Pear-shaped pendant of pink chalcedony. GGFR pl. 891.

Gem image

A Persian man dancing.

Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum 81.AN.76.88. Grey chalcedony scaraboid. 25mm. J. Boardman, Intaglios and Rings (1975) no. 88.

Gem image

A 'rhyton' pouring vase of a common type in the Achaemenid empire and a prestige vessel. The forepart is an antelope.

Pais, Louvre AO 6916. Blue chalcedony scaraboid. 26mm. GGFR pl. 894.