Late Hellenistic-Roman, c. 50 BC to AD 20
Found in Petescia, modern Turania, north of Rome, in 1875
Misc. 7051 and Misc. 7066 = FG 11067. Acquired through
W. Helbig in Rome in 1876
Section 8.15,15 and 13
The Petescia hoard, found in a village in the Umbrian Sabine mountains, was the most important purchase made for the jewellery collection of the Berlin Antiquarium in the 19th century. The entry in the accession register for May 1876 contains 38 items [Misc. 7041-7078]. Six pairs of bracelets, two single bracelets, and one pair of torñs — these 16 gold objects weighing more than 3 kilos were all stolen from the Central Repository at Schloss Celle in 1946/47; drawings which W. Helbig had done in Rome in March 1876, and which are now kept in the German Archaeological Institute in Rome, record more precisely than pre-war photographs the decoration and construction of these rings (see the endpapers of this book). A gold laurel wreath and 13 gold finger rings with Cameos, gems or cut stones — aquamarines, emeralds, garnets and chrysoliths — are preserved as well as a solid gold finger ring, a silver bracelet, the silver head of a fulcrum, two fragmentary silver beakers with remains of Erotes decoration, a silver shell pyxis, a silver frog employed as a pendant, and two small objects made of amber.
The heavy gold ring was solid cast and chased afterwards (external D.: without head 1.7 × 2.17 cm, internal D.: 1.3 × 1.6 cm, bezel 1.55 × 1.24 cm, Wt.: 14 grams). The ring, round outside, flattened within, becomes broader towards the shoulders; into the flat oval of the upper part is inserted a separately cast and rather prominent disc with a bust of Jupiter. The fully worked head is seen in three quarter view, and in the Hellenistic tradition has long, billowing locks, a beetling brow, deep set eyes and a full beard; the chest is draped. The most closely related objects are late Hellenistic finger rings from Egypt in gold and marble and set with busts of Serapis.
The large finger ring set with a cornelian onyx is the only one among the 13 from the Petescia hoard which is sufficiently big for a man’s finger (externally 2.53 x 3.4 cm, internally 1.8 × 2.35 cm, bezel 3.25 × 2.27 cm; Wt.: 10.08 grams). The oval cameo shows in low relief a group of a Satyr and Nymph, where the cornelian red contrasts with the milky white ground. The young Satyr with pointy ears sits frontally with legs apart on a rock spread with an animal skin, and pulls at the corner of the garment of the Nymph dancing in front of him. In so doing, he reveals to the onlooker a delightful view of a nude from the rear beneath the gossamer-thin dress. The Nymph throws her right arm upwards, turns her nicely coiffured head towards her partner and lowers her left hand down to the cloth of her garment just over his erect penis. The Satyr steps with his right foot on a rattle, while with the left he appears to strike the rhythm. Despite the movement, the group is [p.85] entirely oriented towards the viewer, the erotic game is aimed at the voyeur, and the actors themselves are oblivious. — The cameo with its elongated stone, its group composition that goes back to Hellenistic sculptural models, its refined and mannered carving as well as its massive ring setting dates to around the middle of the 1st century BC.
It belongs — next to the largest ring with Medusa cameo — to the earliest objects of the Petescia hoard; the a necklaces and bracelets, most of the finger rings — including a cornelian cameo with the portrait of the empress Livia —, the golden wreath and the silver vessels were created in the Augustan or early Tiberian period.
The enormous value of the pure gold, that was used for the (lost) necklaces and bracelets alone, the especially clear precious stones, and the first class craftsmanship that was expended on them point to imperial patronage, although the quality of the silver objects is not nearly in the same league.
Publ.: Greifenhagen I 77 ff., pl. 58,7+9, pl. 59,6 and 59,4, colour pl. VII, 3; Antikenmuseum 1988, 355, Case 24,1b, Nos. 16 and 23; L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, L’oro dei Romani (1992) 23, figs. 11-13, 231, Nos. 10 and 12; T. Springer, “Ein Hort von Dona Militaria”, in: Acta Praeh. et Arch. 25, 1993, 265 ff.; G. Platz-Horster, in: Archäologischer Kalender 1998, Verlag Philipp von Zabern Mainz, 25. Mai — 7. Juni 1998; G. Alvino, “Turania”, in: La Valle del Turano sulle tracce dell’antico (Rieti 1999) 19f., fìgs. 3 and 7.
On the find as a whole and the circumstances surrounding its purchase, see: G. Platz-Horster, “Der Schatzfund von Petescia”, in: Prospettiva, In memoria di Mauro Cristofani, ed. B. Adembri (Rome, in press).
On the Jupiter ring, cf: E. Vernier, Cat. Général des Ant. Égyptiennes du Musée du Caire. Bijoux et Orfèvreries vols. I—II (1907-09) 105, No. 52296, pl. 26 (gold ring). Götter und Pharaonen, Exhibition Essen 1978, No. 153 (a votive ring made of marble). B. Nardelli, I cammei del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia (Roma 1999) 31, No. 3 (chalcedony cameo): early 1st century AD, and see the review by G. Platz-Horster, in: Gnomon 74, 2002, 58 f.
On the Satyr and Nymph ring, see: O. M. Dalton, Cat. of the Engraved Gems of the Post-Classical Periods, British Museum London (1915) 21, pl. VII, 133. The onyx cameo, said to be 16th century work inscribed COCTPAT for “Sostratos” was acquired in 1815; it requires an ancient model which corresponds compositionally with the one found at Petescia in 1875.