A medaillon with a central head of Medusa. Her round face is framed by fine wavy locks of hair. She has a broad nose with large nostrils, large eyes and incised eyebrows. She is depicted within a broad surrounding rim which has two applied rosettes; there are twisted gold wires and twin bosses with attachment loops. To one of these a cylindrical ribbed collar is attached with a fragmentary double loop chain.
Depictions of the goddess were intentionally ugly. She was one of the Gorgons, terrifying female creatures, like her sisters, Stheno and Euryale. Medusa was the only one of them who was not immortal (she was killed by Perseus). She had a frightening, petrifying gaze, and because of this a Gorgoneion (a depiction of the grotesque face) was often used as protection. It was placed on walls, doors and tombstones, as well as on ships, shields, breastplates, jewellery and elsewhere, protecting against evil and the evil eye.
The medaillon was created using the repousse technique, creating the relief image by hammering on the back side. It is unknown how long this chain originally was; perhaps a part is missing, perhaps only the collar was lost, in any case something should have been attached to the attachment loop near the other boss. If the chain is complete (except the collar) the whole could only have been worn as a bracelet; however, this seems unlikely, one would rather expect it to be a necklace, but then the chain should have been longer.
Roman Egyptian, circa 2nd century C.E.
Diameter of medaillon 4.7 cm; lngth of chain including collar: circa 19 cm; weight: 18.2 gram.
Formerly in the collection of the famous art dealer Maurice Nahman (1868-1948). Thereafter Dutch private collection.
In certain areas the gold has become very thin because of the hammering technique, and minuscule holes (on average 0,1 mm only) are visible in several spots where the hammering has been just one tap too much. Near the boss on the proper left hand side a hole of circa 1 mm in diameter is visible. All this was caused by the artist who created the object in antiquity, it is not modern damage. Similarly there is some minor damage to the tip of the nose and the right cheek. The rim around the portrait is slightly uneven, or bent, in certain small areas, again as a result of the hammering. The chain is attached to the medaillon on one side.