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Author Topic: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm  (Read 281 times)

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Online Joe Sermarini

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Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« on: September 17, 2021, 03:40:33 pm »
Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm

The Annunciation: the Virgin standing facing on the right, nimbate and raising her right hand with the palm turned outwards; the angel Gabriel on the left, nimbate, advancing towards the Virgin, raising his right hand, wand in his left hand. Possibly with the inscription XAIPE KAIXAPITWMNH O KC META (Greetings, you who are highly favored! the Lord is with you)

Reverse: Inscription in seven lines.

There are a few seals depicting The Annunciation on Coin Archives. They are dated to the 12th Century.  Does anyone know another example of this seal with legible inscriptions? Is it 12th Century? Anyone know a reference for it. Thanks!

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Offline Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2021, 04:26:17 am »
Hi Joe,
Yes, I think it's circa 12th century. Unfortunately, the reverse offers very little to fully attribute it. I think I read 'skepois' on the last line (may you protect) but there are hundreds of seal legends ending that way. I did check a couple of Annunciation seals, which are rare, but no evident matches.
Regards
Gert

Online Joe Sermarini

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2021, 07:32:27 am »
Thanks Gert.
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Offline Molinari

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2021, 09:20:08 am »
I’m an interested buyer—when do you expect to list it?

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2021, 10:31:43 am »
I just added it to the shop - $300.
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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2021, 11:22:46 am »
Sold!

Online Joe Sermarini

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2021, 11:57:25 am »
Thanks. I think you will be pleased with it in hand. The photo does not capture the high relief.
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Offline Molinari

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2021, 12:52:33 pm »
Cool--I've actually been studying earlier depictions of the Annunciation in which Mary is featured collecting water from a well, so this will be a nice piece to keep me motivated.

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2021, 01:02:46 pm »
It looks like there is water on the seal pictured below, in fact!

Gert, have you seen this (i.e. the water) motif before?

Nick

Offline Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2021, 03:01:17 pm »
Yes, I have seen this motif before, but that is not water. It is a thread of purple yarn and a basket. This narrative element of the Virgin spinning whool (emphasizing her womanly virtue) is not in the Gospels - it derives from the protoevangelion of James. In Annunciation scenes there are often allusions to this. Your seal has the basket, but often, it is just a distaff she is holding.
Regards
Gert

Offline Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2021, 03:05:29 pm »
Here's another nice early seal with an Annunciation scene and my writeup.

Samuel, patrikios (?). Byzantine lead seal (18mm, 6.93 gram) 6th century
The Annunciation: on the right, the Mother of God seated left, holding distaff in right hand; on the left, the archangel Gabriel raising his right hand in a gesture of speech; star above
Complex block monogram CAMOVHΛ ΠATPIKIOV (?)
Apparently unpublished. Cf. for other pre-Iconoclastic seals depicting the Annunciation: Laurent, Vatican 218; Laurent, Corpus V.2 1083 bis; Zacos/Veglery 2951 and Cotsonis, J., “Narrative Scenes on Byzantine Lead Seals (Sixth-Twelfth Centuries): Frequency, Iconography, and Clientele” in Gesta Vol. 48, No. 1 (2009) p. 55-86 (with additional references); extremely fine and of the best pre-Iconoclastic style.

In his study of narrative scenes on Byzantine seals, John Cotsonis records 54 seals with imagery of the Annunciation. Of these, only 9 can be dated to pre-Iconoclastic times. The figures on these early Annunciation seals are shown standing, with the angel on the observer’s right. This seal presents a rare iconographic variant of a seated Mary on the observer’s right. Some researchers have suggested that the position on the right reflects a position of higher importance and prestige, and therefore that the reversal of the positions of Mary and Gabriel in early Christian art reflect her growing prestige within Christian orthodoxy. Indeed, in post-Iconoclastic times, the position of Mary on the observer’s right becomes the norm. Another prominent feature in early Annunciation scenes is the narrative element that Mary was spinning at the time of her encounter with Gabriel (which is not in the Canonical gospels but in the protoevangelion of James). Most early depictions of the Annunciation prominently feature the distaff, thread and a basket of purple yarn. This seal does not show the basket, but Mary does seem to be holding a distaff.

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2021, 03:34:21 pm »
Interesting.  I haven’t heard the thread story before.  The water story would predate these seals by nearly 1,000 years with the earliest example coming from Dura-Europos.

Offline Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2021, 04:46:37 pm »
Interesting indeed. I googled the image but the NYT article about its attribution is behind a paywall. Can you read it and see what the arguments are? It seems to me that this image could also be the woman at the well, another narrative scene from the Gospels that is featured in early Christian art. Obviously, there were several variants of the story.

As for the date: it's almost a millennium with Joe's seal. The distance in time is much shorter with my seal and the one you posted: those are 6th century. The narrative source of the story of the virgin spinning whool is 2nd century.
Regards
Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2021, 04:59:56 pm »
Both the spinning and the well appear in the protoevangelion of James: https://www.gospels.net/infancyjames

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2021, 06:01:21 pm »
I haven’t read the NYT article but that presumably talks about Michael Peppard’s theory that the scene depicts the Annunciation of Mary.  He wrote an article which I have not read, but also a book on Dura-Europos in which he (purportedly) strengthens the argument substantially.  I’m in the middle of that really excellent book now as I research water in early Christianity.  I can probably get the article from JSTOR and I will let you know when I do.

There were a lot of depictions of the well scene throughout the ages.  I had never even heard of it until fairly recently!

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2021, 06:12:46 pm »
Both the spinning and the well appear in the protoevangelion of James: https://www.gospels.net/infancyjames

Thanks for this—I actually hadn’t read the original account yet so now I know the thread and well story are connected! So on my seal (the one I purchased) Mary is holding the basket? Or just on the example I thought was water emerging from a well?

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2021, 02:31:37 am »
I think the basket only appears on pre-iconoclastic seals. On the seal you bought from Joe, the Virgin is raising her right hand and her left hand is in the fold of her garments. If she is holding something, it is a spindle/distaff.
Regards
Gert

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2021, 10:24:38 am »
Finally finished Peppard's book.  It was excellent until the very end, but either way his rationale that the scene depicts Mary is utterly convincing.  An overview:

1. If the Samaritan Woman, Jesus would be depicted too, as on all other known examples
2. There is space for another figure and the absence is indicative of Mary only hearing the voice in the non-canonical accounts (e.g., James, which he argues, convincingly, is not a fringe account)
3. Most ancient extant type of Annunciation art features Mary at a spring
4. The figure is "looking back," which he argues is indicative of hearing the angel, and this motif is also found on many Annunciation scenes.
5. Two lines attach from her back and grow with distance, indicative of the Holy Spirit entering her for incarnation
6. Relatedly, Eastern Byzantines employ similar lines
7. Star on chest is indicative of incarnation.

All of this evidence is significantly reinforced with his interpretation of other scenes and the emphasis on water and placement of various paintings throughout the church.  Definitely worth reading.

The only shortcoming of the book was the very end, where, after all this work demonstrating that it was the Annunciation, he argues for a form of "Premodern Polysemy," meaning all of the interpretations are valid to a certain degree.  I disagree with this.  I think the intention of the artist was most definitely Mary's Annunciation.

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2021, 09:47:13 am »
Yes, that seems like a good argument to me as well, although I would be hesitant to exclude polysemy (had to look that term up) a priori in the interpretation of an image. Layered meanings play a very important role in early Christian art. Yet I don't think it worked in the way you describe - that this image would at once represent both Mary and the Woman at the Well. Rather, images were chosen that best allowed these different, layered meanings. For example, the story of Jonah, which was very well-liked in early Christian art, could be seen as a foreshadowing of Christ's sacrifice and descent into Hell, but also as an allegory of baptism. Same with the especially symbolic image of the fish, which could allude to Christ himself (through the Greek acrostic ICHTHYS), to baptism, to the Christian faith, to the faithful et cetera. No wonder the catacombs are full of them.
Regards
GErt

Offline Molinari

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Re: Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2021, 12:21:16 pm »
I'm not opposed to some polysemic interpretations (e.g., my book about local rivers in relation to Acheloios), but Peppard's theory seemed to project something of an ambivalence on the original artist.  I would agree that the story of Rebecca or the Samaritan woman at the well would come to mind when seeing Mary at the well, as would a long history of YHWH interacting with mankind at wells and other water sources.  But Peppard seems to think the artist intended this triple meaning, whereas I do not--to me the iconography is clear and unambiguous given Peppard's own rationale.  Perhaps I'm misreading him, however, and he meant something more along the lines of what you're saying.

 

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