Intaglio Fragment with a Satyr or Paniskos



Intaglio Fragment with a Satyr or Paniskos


1st-2nd Century AD




Banded agate
5/8 x 5/8 in. (1.6 x 1.6 cm)

Object Number



The classical tradition of carving semi-precious gemstones was adopted from the ancient Near East, under the Bronze Age palace societies of Crete and Mycenae. The design would be cut into the flat surface of a stone in order to make a personal seal or stamp, in the manner of family signet rings today. They are often called "intaglios", from the Italian verb "to cut". From this tradition emerged, in Hellenistic times, one of decorating the same hard-stones, not with an engraved design for practical use, but rather an image in relief, to be used as personal adornment. Poetic descriptions of these objects, whether fictive or not, make it clear that cameos and intaglios were admired for the exquisite workmanship that made them talking points in their own right. They have been widely imitated ever since.

The stones from which these were carved using hand-drills, cutting wheels, and a series of increasingly delicate abrasives, represent some of the consummate technological accomplishments of the ancient world. The exploitation of the geological layering of the stones to bring out the image against a contrasting background is a hallmark of ancient cameos.

There has been much discussion whether or not magnifying glasses (which existed) were used: although it seems almost impossible that the naked eye could control carving so minute, it is also unlikely that the available lenses were sufficiently perfect to avoid potentially disastrous distortions.

The tombstone of a gem-cutter working in Roman times at Sardis records the age of his death at only eighteen, suggesting that the artists began working extremely early. The names of these craftsmen, where known, are almost always Greek, even in Roman times.

The satyr or paniskos on this cameo carries a hunting stick in his right hand and has an animal skin suspended over his outstretched left.

Credit Line

Classical Purchase Fund


From Pharaohs to Emperors: New Egyptian and Classical Antiquities at Emory, Michael C. Carlos Museum, January 14 - April 2, 2006|
Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great (1762-1796), Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA, September 21, 2013 - January 5, 2014|
Passion of the Empress: Catherine the Great's Art Patronage, Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, Washington, DC, February 15 - June 8, 2014
Peter Lacovara and Jasper Gaunt, "From Pharaohs to Emperors: Egyptian, Near Eastern & Classical Antiquities at Emory," Minerva 17 (January/February 2006): 9-16.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2005.
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“Intaglio Fragment with a Satyr or Paniskos,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020,

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