Luxuriant luxuriance in the glyptic occurs in Hellenism.
According to WATCHTUTORIALS, there are numerous signatures: Agatopo, Apollonio, Atenione, Boeto, probably the sculptor of Chalcedon, Daedalus, Heraclida, Phidias, Filone, Gelone, Licomede, Nicandro, Onesa, Protarco, Scopa, Sosi, Trifone. For this rich production it is difficult to proceed with chronological groupings and factories; there is the same difficulty, but much more pronounced, which is observed in Hellenistic sculpture.
Instead of the scarabid of previous times, perforated lengthwise, there is the smooth stone on one side, convex on the other, where the figuration stands out with the effect of lights and shadows. Various stones are used, and almost always of a larger size than in the previous age; the use of glass paste is frequent, most of the time of a dark shade. The use of cameos, that is of ornamental stones in relief, arises, in which the various coloring of the layers served to produce surprising effects of optical illusion. It seems that the two main centers of production of Hellenistic cameos were Alexandria and Antioch: there are cameos signed by Athenion, Boetus, Protarchus, Tryphon. As in the great sculpture and in the coinage, so in the Hellenistic glyptic the portrait stands out, as a manifestation of the most original art. Magnificent portraits have survived: shining examples are the nine-layered sardonyx from Vienna with the idealized heads, perhaps of Alexander the Great and his mother Olympia, and the Gonzaga sardonyx now in Leningrad, with the heads perhaps of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Arsinoe (v fig. svarsinoe). There is no shortage of myth scenes treated with parchment or rhodia, and scenes of daily life with the flavor of Alexandrian art; a favorite subject is the face of the Medusa, while on many lesser gems they are different objects or symbols.
But of hard stones they are also containers for drinking; two examples can be cited, two figured cameos, which certainly belonged to sumptuous Tolomei, namely the Farnese cup in Naples and the Ptolemy cup in Paris. Especially noteworthy is the first with a magnificent Gorgon head on the outside and a rich allegory of the Nile River on the inside (see fig. Sv cameo). These two large cups, like the aforementioned cameos from Vienna and Gonzaga, give us an idea of the splendor of the Ptolemaic court and, in general, of each of the Diadochi courts. But that this splendor in terms of precious objects was fantastic, is proved by the news of Appiano (Bellum Mithrid., 115), according to which the Romans counted in the booty made to Mithridates Eupator as many as two thousand onyx bowls, as well as a mass of other vases, tools and ornaments for horses, with precious stones.
The Hellenistic splendor, also as regards the gem, passes to the Romans, and the glyptic, in the early days of the empire, remains essentially Greek. As Pyrgoteles was the engraver of Alexander the Great’s court, so Dioscurides was the official engraver of Augustus, famous for his portrayal of this emperor (Sueton., Aug. 50).
We have received works of Dioscurides of very fine art, with subjects from the Greek myth (Hermes, Heracles, Achilles, Diomedes) and with the portrait of Demosthenes; perhaps Dioscuride’s is the famous Gemma Augustea of Vienna, of purely Roman content. Another gem carver of the Augustan age is Aspasio, the author of the beautiful jasper, now in the National Roman Museum, with the bust of Athena Parthénos by Phidias. Also in the glyptic, as in the sculpture, the works of the golden times of Greek art are reproduced; thus, for example, we have the Berlin gem and the Leningrad gem, which give us two distinct but very beautiful redactions of the head of Phidias’ Zeus at Olympia.
Among the minor arts in Greece we must also mention ivory carving.
Ivory was a material widely used in pre-Hellenic civilization, both to make statuettes (female figurine of ivory and gold from the Boston museum, figurine of acrobat from Knossos), and to make tools (mirror handle from Mycenae, comb from Sparta) and especially cassettes or cysts (pyx of Menidia). In these objects there is always a rich figurative relief decoration. Especially the late Mycenaean necropolis of Enkomi (Cyprus) was fertile with ivory objects, in which the shapes of the figures and ornaments demonstrate the fading of Cretan-Mycenaean art, with Syriac influence, with relaxation or hardness of motifs, with ruffled disorder in the compositions. But the use of ivory in the period of the Hellenic Middle Ages greatly diminished, and this is natural, because ivory is an exotic matter, and then Relations with African regions are severely interrupted or reduced, while such relations are no longer intense with Cyprus, where the ivory market was certain in Cretan-Mycenaean times. We can mention five ivory figurines from a tomb of the first half of the eighth century, of a schematic character, geometrizing in the angular and not modeled forms: they are feminine and completely naked.
Wealth of ivory objects returns to appear in the period of orientalizing art; two discoveries in this regard were conspicuous, that of the votive stipe of the ancient Artemisio of Ephesus and that of the sanctuary of Artemis in Orthia Sparta; add that some ivories from Etruscan tombs of the century. VII can be attributed to Greece and precisely to Cyprus. To the ivory reliefs, in which we move from traditional patterns and compositions of geometric art to more developed forms of mythical figures (eg the pótnia th ērōn) or realistic (eg, warriors), add the carvings in the round (eg the female statuettes of Ephesus of elongated shapes with wide eyes, the group of the beast with the prey and the hunter of Sparta).
Later, ivory is used essentially for the large simulacra of divinities, that is, for the chryselephantine statues, nor, apart from these large and singular works of sculpture, can we adduce anything other than the fragments of the ivory decoration of a wooden sarcophagus from Kul-Oba, six kilometers from Kerč, with very fine engravings from the end of the century. It goes. C., where there is still an echo of the greatness of the Fidiac sculptures of the Parthenon. It is the remnant of two mythical representations, namely the judgment of Paris and the abduction of the Leucippids. Also from the necropolis of Kerč come engraved ivory fragments: these are Hellenistic products by now poor.