The oval cabochon intaglio gem is composed of a banded eye agate, with a brown layer on top of white. The gem is engraved with the profile head of an old man, possibly Sokrates with a long curling bearded and a receding hairline with a mass of curls at the back of the head. There are sets of Greek lettering above and below: MAL above and XAC below, probably the owner's name. Set in a large hollow gold ring with a brushed surface and a closed back.
English private collection, 1970s, thence by descent Bonhams, 13 April 2011, lot 195 (part)
Portraits of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Sokrates show him as bearded and bald with a broad bulbous nose that is said to have likened him to a silenus. There is another old man intaglio with Greek text in the British Museum. Also see J. Boardman, D. Scarisbrick, C. Wagner, E. Zwierlein-Diehl, The Marlborough Gems, 2009, no. 713; and G.M.A. Richter, Catalogue of Engraved Gems: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, Rome, 1956, pl. LVI.