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Byzantine Lead Seal The Annunciation 39.740g, 38.3x28.2mm

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--- Quote from: Gert on September 22, 2021, 04:59:56 pm ---Both the spinning and the well appear in the protoevangelion of James:

--- End quote ---

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?

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.

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.

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.

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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