Cameo with Orestes, seated, and his friend Pylades Roman, Republican Period or Neo Classical, 1st century B.C.
White on dark brown layered onyx. Cameo, in modern gold setting. Orestes is seated, resting his bowed head on his right hand, his left arm dropped on his left thigh with the half-closed hand hanging listlessly by his knee. To the left of his legs, there is part of a stone structure in courses, with faint horizontal striations (possibly an altar). Orestes seems not be sitting on this, but on something else, perhaps a stone, only a small part of which is visible. Between this seat and his thigh, a piece of drapery can be made out. In front of Orestes, Pylades stands looking down at him, his right hand resting on a high pillar, his head on the hand, his left arm lowered with the hand open. A garment falls in front of his right leg and is held between thigh and knee; higher it is seen in front of his chest and under his armpit. In the background, there is part of a doorway, with a fillet hanging from the lintel; the architectural fragments above the lintel are hard to interpret. Behind Orestes and in front of the doorway stands a guard, clean-shaven, with Roman helmet and shield, and there is also the hand and bent, sleeved arm of a fourth figure, his or her elbow as if resting on a ledge concealed by the head of Orestes. The scene has been identified as either Pylades and Orestes saying farewell in Tauris, before Orestes is sacrificed, or as Orestes and Pylades grieving before the tomb of Orestes’ father, Agamemnon, in Argos.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston