Gemma Augusta

Gemma Augustea

This paper will be a visual description of the Gemma Augustea (Ramage, 146, 4.2). The analysis will cover the stylistic features of the piece, the history behind it, and the scenes depicted in it.   The paper will pull all these sections together to give the overarching themes of proclaiming the strength of Augustus and the power of Ancient Rome.   The piece teaches all of its viewers the might of Rome through Augustus, particularly in battle.   By studying these areas of the piece, one can understand more about the significance and the power of Augustus, Rome, and of the piece itself.
The Gemma Augustea is a large double-layered onyx cameo bordered by a gold trim. (Ramage, 146).   The onyx that the piece was carved from was comprised of two different colored veins.   The dark blue color is the deeper vein, and the white vein is above it.   The artist used this to his advantage by controlling the depth of the relief while carving it. The artist used the white vein of the onyx as the foreground for the piece, while using the dark vein to create a backdrop to the piece.   This color differentiation led to more contrast between the images and the background.   In addition, the artist was able to use more shadowing.   This type of carving takes extreme precision.   Typically cameo engraved gems like these were small pendants, rings, or jewelry (SmartHistory).   However, the notable size of this cameo engraved gem, which is 7.5 by 9 inches, makes it slightly easier for the artist to include such detail compared to a piece that is a fraction of the size (Ramage, 146).   It is assumed to have been created by artist Dioscurides sometime between 10-20 AD (Wikipedia).
The history behind the scenes depicted on the piece begins with Augustus.   He had no sons, only a daughter.   When his daughter’s two sons, whom he had adopted as his own, both passed away in their early manhood, Augustus was forced to find another successor.   His stepson Tiberius, whom he wasn't...