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Anonymous (eleventh century, second half)

 
 

Obverse

Standing image of the Virgin (Hagiosoritissa) facing left with her arms raised in prayer towards the manus Dei. Sigla: ̅ΘΥ : Μ(ήτη)ρ Θ(εο)ῦ. Inscription in two columns: ΗΑ|ΓΙ|ΟΣΟ|ΡΙ|ΤΙ|Σ : ἡ Ἁγιοσορίτισα. Border of dots.

Reverse

Standing figure of St Peter blessing with his right hand and holding a gospel book in his left. Inscription in two columns: Ο|Α|Γ|Ι|Ο|ΣΠ|Ε|Τ|Ρ|Ο|Σ : ὁ ἅγιος Πέτρος. Linear border.

Obverse

Standing image of the Virgin (Hagiosoritissa) facing left with her arms raised in prayer towards the manus Dei. Sigla: ̅ΘΥ : Μ(ήτη)ρ Θ(εο)ῦ. Inscription in two columns: ΗΑ|ΓΙ|ΟΣΟ|ΡΙ|ΤΙ|Σ : ἡ Ἁγιοσορίτισα. Border of dots.

Reverse

Standing figure of St Peter blessing with his right hand and holding a gospel book in his left. Inscription in two columns: Ο|Α|Γ|Ι|Ο|ΣΠ|Ε|Τ|Ρ|Ο|Σ : ὁ ἅγιος Πέτρος. Linear border.

Accession number BZS.1951.31.5.3581
Diameter 25.0 mm; field: 21.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 11.3.

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

Commentary

The Virgin Hagiosoritissa is an image associated with either the Virgin’s church of the Chalkoprateia in Constantinople that housed the relic of the Virgin’s belt (zone) in a reliquary casket, or soros, or with that of her church of the Blachernai, also in Constantinople, that kept the relic of her mantle (maphorion), also in a reliquary casket. For discussion of these two shrines, see Janin, Églises, 237-241 and 161-171, respectively. For  some discussion of the image of the Hagiosritissa, see ODB, 3, 2171, Seibt, “Die Darstellung der Theotokos,” 48-50, and Kolsida-Makre, “The Iconography of the Virgin,” 28-29 and 36. There are many examples of the image of the Virgin Hagiosritissa on seals: 37 are known from the major published collections. Although epithets are often applied inconsistently to various images of the Virgin, the term Hagiosoritssa is always given to this iconographic type: the Virgin standing in profile with upraised arms in prayer to either a Manus Dei or bust of Christ.  

The Peter depicted on our seal does not appear to be the Apostle since our figure is dressed as a bishop, with remaining traces of his omophorion and stole still visible. He also exhibits a different portrait type than the Apostle who is usually rendered in classical garb and with a full head of short curly hair and a short, rounded beard. Our seal is a unicum: among the published sphragisitc examples of Peter, all depict the Apostle. There are several sainted bishops named Peter: the fourth-century Peter, the bishop of Sebaste and brother of Saints Basil and Gregory of Nyssa; Peter of Alexandria, a martyred bishop of the early fourth century; and Peter, the bishop of Argos of the late ninth-early tenth century. It is not possible to determine which bishop Peter our seal depicts.