You are here:Home/Resources/ Byzantine Seals/ Search the Catalogue/ Anonymous (eleventh century)

Anonymous (eleventh century)

 
 

Obverse

The Annunciation: the Angel Gabriel only, in profile, facing right, gesturing with his right hand and holding a scepter in is left, a chi-rho monogram is in the upper right and a letter at the right of the angel’s gesturing hand, at the lower right is an inscription which is the beginning of the angelic salutation. Inscription: ||ΧΑΡΙ|Τ,|ΑΡ̣|: Χρ(ιστὸς). (Κε)χαριτωμ(ένη) Μαρ[ί]α. Border of dots.

Reverse

The Annunciation: the Virgin, seated on a thokos, her gestures indicate spinning: she holds a spindle in her right hand and an extended strand of the spun thread in her left; remains of an inscription at left. Inscription in column: Ο|Κ̣̅Σ̣|̣Ε̣Τ̣|Α̣Σ̣̣ : ὁ Κ(ύριο)ς μετὰ σοῦ. Border of dots.

Obverse

The Annunciation: the Angel Gabriel only, in profile, facing right, gesturing with his right hand and holding a scepter in is left, a chi-rho monogram is in the upper right and a letter at the right of the angel’s gesturing hand, at the lower right is an inscription which is the beginning of the angelic salutation. Inscription: ||ΧΑΡΙ|Τ,|ΑΡ̣|: Χρ(ιστὸς). (Κε)χαριτωμ(ένη) Μαρ[ί]α. Border of dots.

Reverse

The Annunciation: the Virgin, seated on a thokos, her gestures indicate spinning: she holds a spindle in her right hand and an extended strand of the spun thread in her left; remains of an inscription at left. Inscription in column: Ο|Κ̣̅Σ̣|̣Ε̣Τ̣|Α̣Σ̣̣ : ὁ Κ(ύριο)ς μετὰ σοῦ. Border of dots.

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3568
Diameter 23.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 2.6.

 

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

Commentary

The inscription that begins on the obverse and continues onto the reverse is a Christogram followed by a variation of the angelic salutation of the Annunciation, “Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28). On our specimen, the “Hail” or “Χαίρε” is not included.The S on the obverse, above the text, is a common sphragistic abbreviation for the Greek word “καί” (homophonic κε) (for examples, see Oikonomides, Dated Seals, nos. 99 and 104). On our seal, however, it is employed phonetically as equal to the prefix “κε” in the pluperfect passive participle of the κεχαριτομένη (highly favored or full of grace) in the angelic salutation. The parallel specimen in the Moscow State Historical Museum facilitated the reading of our seal. For other examples of S representing not καὶ but the phonetic value of a word, see the obverses of five other seals that depict the angel Gabriel accompanied by his salutation, but without any representation of the Virgin (Jordanov, Bulgaria, 3:2, nos. 2536-2539).

Among the major published collections, the image of the Annunciation is the most popular scene on seals, 66 examples out of 11,506 seals. Bilateral pairings of Christological scenes are even fewer. Such pairings are often linked theologically, such as the Crucifixion with the Anastasis while others, such as the pairing of the Nativity with the Dormition, reflect more complex typological associations (for example, see Maguire, Art and Eloquence, 59-68 and Weyl Carr, “Popular Imagery,” 114-115). Here is a rare example where one scene spans both the obverse and the reverse, reflecting how the original angelic greeting crossed real physical space, a visual device that was also employed in contemporary Byzantine churches when the painted protagonists of the Annunciation were depicted on opposite sides of sanctuary arches as seen, for example, in the twelfth-century frescoes of the church of Saint George in Kurbinovo (see Hadermann-Misguich, Kurbinovo,96-103, figs. 36-39).

 

Parallel Seals: 

Moscow State Historical Museum GIM 93368 KP 820699. See Lihačev, IZIGI, fig. 319 and Cotsonis, “Narrative Scenes,” 61, fig. 7.

Zacos (BnF) 5953: for a photograph of this specimen, seeIstanbul, no. 10.1.

Similar to Istanbul, no. 10.1.