Cameo portrait of Archimedes

    • Provenienza:
      Farnese Collection
    • Data:
      15th-16th century (?)
    • Materiali:
      Vitreous paste
    • Dimensioni:
      height 2.2 cm, width 1.7 cm
    • Collocazione:
      Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale
    • Inventario:
      inv. 27375
  • Cameo portrait of Archimedes

This cameo forms part of the Farnese collection inherited by the Naples museum during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon, Farnese by birth on his mother's side. The cameo, in dark-coloured vitreous paste imitating sardonic stone, is a copy of a Roman one portraying an elderly man with thick curly hair and beard that is routinely identified as a portrait of Archimedes.


Portraits of Archimedes

No records of Archimedes' physical appearance exist nor do we know whether there were pictures of him in his birthplace of Syracuse or elsewhere. All we can infer from the anecdotes in ancient sources are the psychological traits of a character endowed with extraordinary depth of thought and capacity for concentration - qualities that cost him his life in the siege of Syracuse. His identification in some sculptures, gems and mosaics is not deemed sound, save perhaps for a statue of a philosopher absorbed in his thoughts found in the Serapeum of Memphis (today's Saqqara) in Egypt.