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Anonymous (eleventh century, first half)

 
 

Obverse

Bust of bearded saint, possibly Constantine, holding a small patriarchal cross in his right hand, left hand indistinct, left side of field effaced. Inscription in two columns (only right survives): Κ̅.|Τ̣.: [ὁ ἅγιος] Κω[νσ]τ[αντίνος] ? Indeterminate border.

Reverse

Bust of a female saint, possibly Helen, holding a cross in her right hand, her left hand is raised before her breast; the right side of the field is effaced. Inscription in two columns (only one letter on right survives): Η|Α|Γ̣.Α̣–..̣.. : ἡ ἁγ[ί]α [Ἑλ]έ[νη] ? Linear border.

Obverse

Bust of bearded saint, possibly Constantine, holding a small patriarchal cross in his right hand, left hand indistinct, left side of field effaced. Inscription in two columns (only right survives): Κ̅.|Τ̣.: [ὁ ἅγιος] Κω[νσ]τ[αντίνος] ? Indeterminate border.

Reverse

Bust of a female saint, possibly Helen, holding a cross in her right hand, her left hand is raised before her breast; the right side of the field is effaced. Inscription in two columns (only one letter on right survives): Η|Α|Γ̣.Α̣–..̣.. : ἡ ἁγ[ί]α [Ἑλ]έ[νη] ? Linear border.

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3569
Diameter 18.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, no. 18.4.

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

Commentary

The incomplete surviving inscriptions make it difficult to identify both figures with any certainty. If they are Saints Constantine and Helen they are not presented wearing their customary imperial costume as seen on seals and in other media. Both figures hold crosses that could allude to either the usual association of Constantine and Helen together holding the True Cross, as seen on other sphragitc examples, or rather identifies them as other martyrs or confessors. The portrait type for the male figure here, with long hair and a thin pointed beard, is not that of Constantine the sainted emperor. Rather, this portrait type recalls that of Niketas, Eustathios or Nikephoros. But the remains of the inscription are difficult to reconcile with these names. If the male saint is not Constantine, then the female figure is most likely not Helen but one of the female martyrs. The sole surviving letter to the right of her figure could be either Ε  or  Σ lending itself to various names such as Anastasia or Theopiste. Constantine and Helen do not appear often on seals. Of the major published collections, Constantine is found on 14 seals; he is paired with Helen on the same side on just four. Helen never appears alone on a seal. Ten seals depict Constantine; two of which show him holding a small cross: Zacos, BLS, 2, 403 and Konstantopoulos, Βυζαντιακὰ Μολυβδόβουλλα, no. 728b, on which he holds a patriarchal cross as on our example here.