Several times, I’ve mention the Thinker of Cernavoda, a small, seven-thousand-year-old terracotta statue that is without a doubt my favorite work of art, and for largely the same reason I also love this piece, the Brescia Medallion, which dates to the late Roman empire.
At some point, the medallion was affixed to the Desiderius Cross, a 9th-century processional ornament now residing at the Museo di Santa Giulia in Brescia, Italy, but it was almost certainly made centuries earlier. The artist is unknown, as is the meaning of the inscription, and scholars do not agree on the identity of the subjects, except that they are likely a Christian mother (right) and her two children.
The work is exceptional (historians once thought it fake), which is important. It allows us to see, in ways less elegant art would not, that despite a gap of some 1,700 years, the same things matter. We are connected across an ocean of time. I imagine this carried by the woman’s husband, no different than a photo in a wallet.
There is a lesson in there, for if we are more alike than different from a family that lived almost two millennia ago, surely there is more that unites than divides us today.