This handsome cameo, distinguished by the precise handling of the stone's strata to reveal a finely rendered portrait in the brown layer, which strongly contrasts with the polished plain white background, relates to three others documented in princely cameo collections and dated to the second half of the 16th Century. The first is the ‘lady in a vail’ from the collection of the Earl of Arundel, purchased as part of the group from the Gonzaga’s in Mantua circa 1620, later entering the Marlborough gem collection, and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated to 1550-80 (inv. no. A.45-1978). Two others are the cameos of Antoninus Pius and Attila, part of the Imperial Habsburg collection, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (see E. Kris, Die Kameen im Kunsthistorischen Museum, Vienna, 1927, nos. 344, 345, pl. 50) dated to the 16th century. Such cameos were long thought to be Italian but have more recently been suggested by the late Rudolf Distelberger as originating from Paris (see R. Distelberger, Die Kunst des Steinschnitts, Vienna, 2002, nos. 132-133, 135). Whether the cameo was carved in Paris or not, there is strong evidence of Italian influence: the image of Galba can be related to 16th Century Italian bronze plaques, in particular see an example in the Metropolitan Museum (inv. no. 09.194.25b) and another from Padua (see G. Toderi, Medaglie e Placchette del Museo Bardini di Firenze, Florence, 1998, no. 258) and also contemporary prints, for example, those of Marcantonio, circa 1520, and Angelo del Moro, circa 1550.
As one of the twelve Caesars, Galba was evidently much sought after by eminent collectors. Other equally distinguished renaissance examples of Galba cameos are in the Cabinet des Medailles, Paris (inv. no. 13-504403); the Arundel-Marlborough gems, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no. A.31-1937); and an example in the British Museum (inv. no. 1867,0507.515).