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Anonymous (eleventh/twelfth century)

 
 

Obverse

Christ, seated on a donkey facing towards the left, holds a cross-staff in his left hand. The remains of the cruciform nimbus identify the figure as Christ. Border indistinct.

Reverse

Bust of the Virgin with the head of Christ before her, no hands are shown; flanked by crosses; off center. Border indistinct.           

Obverse

Christ, seated on a donkey facing towards the left, holds a cross-staff in his left hand. The remains of the cruciform nimbus identify the figure as Christ. Border indistinct.

Reverse

Bust of the Virgin with the head of Christ before her, no hands are shown; flanked by crosses; off center. Border indistinct.           

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3509
Diameter 19.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 2.15. 

Credit Line Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Thomas Whittemore.

Commentary

Among the published collections, there are no other known examples of a seal bearing the image of the Entry into Jerusalem. Very similar examples are found, however, on early-Christian pilgrim’s clay tokens. Gary Vikan discusses how this early figure of the Entry into Jerusalem on pilgrims’ tokens carried with it associations of the contemporary amuletic image of the unidentified equestrian military saint or holy rider figure frequently found on jewelry in the pre-Iconoclastic period (see his “Art, Medicine, and Magic,” 82-83, fig. 23 and idem, “’Guided by Land and Sea,’” 84-84, pl. 10, d and e).

 

Our figure of the Entry into Jerusalem is similar to other examples of the unidentified equestrian military saint or holy rider found on a few published seals from the pre-Iconoclastic period: Zacos-Veglery, BLS, 1:2, nos. 1311, 1318A and I:3, 2975 and Seibt-Zarnitz, Kunstwerk, no. 4.3.10. These early sphragistic examples are often associated with apotropaic devices especially since they are not specifically identified with any particular saint. For a discussion of unidentified holy rider-figures on early seals and the summary of the relevant literature, see Cotsonis, “Contribution of Byzantine Lead Seals,” 398-400. When equestrian saints reappear on seals in the post-Iconoclastic centuries, they are specifically identified as one of the military saints, either Theodore or George.