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Anonymous (eleventh century, second half)

 
 

Obverse

The Crucifixion: at the center is the crucified Christ, flanked by the standing Virgin on the left and Saint John the Theologian on the right; flanking Christ’s head are the personifications of the sun, at the left, and moon, at the right; remains of an illegible inscription in two columns at the far left and right. Border of dots.

Reverse

The Deesis: at the upper center is a medallion with a bust of the Virgin orans with a medallion of Christ before her, flanked by her sigla. At the left is a standing figure of Saint Nicholas; at the right is Saint Menas Kallikelados. Both have their arms raised in prayer towards the Virgin; there are the remains of an illegible inscription between the two saints. Sigla flanking the Virgin: ̅ΘΥ̅: Μή(τη)ρ Θ(εο)ῦ. Inscription at left: ̣|̣|Ι̣|Κ̣, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Νικ(όλοας). Inscription at right: |ΜΗ,|Ο|ΚΑ,|Λ̣Α̣|Κ̣, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Μη(νᾶς) ὁ  Κα(λ)λακ(έλαδος). Remains of an inscription at center: Θ̣Κ̣Ε̣ : Θ(εοτό)κε …. . Border of dots. 

Obverse

The Crucifixion: at the center is the crucified Christ, flanked by the standing Virgin on the left and Saint John the Theologian on the right; flanking Christ’s head are the personifications of the sun, at the left, and moon, at the right; remains of an illegible inscription in two columns at the far left and right. Border of dots.

Reverse

The Deesis: at the upper center is a medallion with a bust of the Virgin orans with a medallion of Christ before her, flanked by her sigla. At the left is a standing figure of Saint Nicholas; at the right is Saint Menas Kallikelados. Both have their arms raised in prayer towards the Virgin; there are the remains of an illegible inscription between the two saints. Sigla flanking the Virgin: ̅ΘΥ̅: Μή(τη)ρ Θ(εο)ῦ. Inscription at left: ̣|̣|Ι̣|Κ̣, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Νικ(όλοας). Inscription at right: |ΜΗ,|Ο|ΚΑ,|Λ̣Α̣|Κ̣, : ὁ ἅ(γιος) Μη(νᾶς) ὁ  Κα(λ)λακ(έλαδος). Remains of an inscription at center: Θ̣Κ̣Ε̣ : Θ(εοτό)κε …. . Border of dots. 

Accession number BZS.1958.106.2849
Diameter 32.0 mm; field: 26.0 mm
Previous Editions

DO Seals 7, 2.16.

Commentary

Among published seals with narrative scenes, the image of the Crucifixion occurs frequently: fifteen examples are known. On the reverse of our seal, however, is a rare example of the depiction of Saint Menas Kallikelados, the early fourth-century martyr of Alexandria. Among the published collections, his image appears on five other seals: DOSeals 4, no. 40.5; DOSeals 5, no. 25.2; Zacos, BLS, 2, no. 404; Seyrig, 96; and Kestner, 2, no. 73. Four of these seals (DOSeals 5, no. 25.2; Zacos, BLS, 2, no. 404, Seyrig, no. 96; and Kestner, 2, no. 73) have been assigned to the same owner, Constantine, a nephew of the patriarch Michael Keroularios (1043-1058) and cousin to the empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa (1067). The fifth seal, DOSeals 4, no. 40.5, closest in iconography to our seal, with a Crucifixion on the obverse and Saint Nicholas and Saint Menas Kallikelados praying to a bust of the Virgin, was issued by a certain Michael, chartoularios of the dromos and of Charsianon, whose affiliation with the Keroularios family has been suggested. The illegible remains of the central inscription on the reverse of our seal may well have been an invocative inscription containing the name of the owner. Although not identical to the seal of Michael (DOSeals 4, no. 40.5), our seal is very similar and given the rare iconographic combination of the Crucifixion and Saint Menas Kallikelados, it is most likely that our specimen was also issued by this owner, or if not the same individual, then by some member of the Keroularios family. The origin of our seal from such a high-ranking aristocratic family with patriarchal and imperial ties gives further evidence that seals bearing images of narrative scenes were associated with an aristocratic clientele (see Cotsonis, “Narrative Scenes," 66-69) and here offers some insight into the patronage of iconographic seals as well.