The oval cameo carved in layered sardonyx with red on white on a dark brown background. Depicting profile jugate busts of Zeus and Hera, facing to the left, Zeus in the foreground with a beard and drapery at his shoulders, Hera behind him in the background.
UK private collection formed in the 1970s
This style of portrait, with two superimposed profiles, is known as the capita jugata type. The capita jugata design was originally a Hellenistic ruler motif, first seen on the coins issued by Ptolemy II Philadelphus in Hellenistic Egypt.
Perhaps the most famous example of this design is the Gonzaga Cameo, a Hellenistic cameo dating to the 3rd century BC and currently in The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, inv.no. ГР-1267. The classical masterpiece depicts a paired portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his wife and sister Arsinoё II, the deified rulers of Egypt. In his Idyll 17, the author Theokritos likens the marriage of Ptolemy and Arsinoё to that of the Greek deities Zeus and Hera, king and queen of the gods. It is likely that the engraver of the cameo was also likening the subjects to the royal marriage of Zeus and Hera.
This type of design was adopted by the Romans and continued to be used for Imperial portraiture on cameos and coins. For further discussion of the type and an example of a similar cameo of Julius Caesar and consort, see M. Henig, H. Molesworth, The Complete Content Cameos, 2018, pp. 68 - 69, no. 69.