Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1960.630
Title
Signet Seal with Gold Leaf
Other Titles
Alternate Title: bronze signet: gold leaf
Classification
Seals
Work Type
seal
Date
second half 9th-8th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Period
Geometric period
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/351071
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Mixed copper alloy; gold leaf
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
3.5 x 1.7 x 1.7 cm (1 3/8 x 11/16 x 11/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Mixed Copper Alloy
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead, zinc
Other Elements: iron, nickel, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is green with small areas of underlying red. Brown burial accretions are also present. Some of the thick corrosion layer has chipped off, while other areas are well preserved. Scrape marks are visible in many areas from cleaning the surface.

The wax model was probably formed directly in wax, as the various shapes are somewhat irregular. The four circular decorations could have been made by cold working on the metal, but their full 1-mm depth points more toward having been pressed in the wax. The hollow shapes at the interior show scoop marks from the tool used to remove wax to create the hollow.


Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

Provenance
David M. Robinson, Baltimore, MD, (by 1949), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1960.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of David M. Robinson
Accession Year
1960
Object Number
1960.630
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This small stamp seal consists of a pyramidal form with four concave sides, surmounted by a biconical bead from which rises a thin, tab-like projection whose sides widen slightly at the top. This is pierced by a circular perforation. Each side of the pyramidal base bears a single stamped circle with central dot depression. The interior of the pyramid is hollow with a design consisting of two triangular areas at the bottom and a widened depression flanked by two smaller triangular areas, forming a stylized creature with four extremities and a head. When this piece came to Harvard, there was allegedly a small piece of gold leaf attached to it (1960.630.B). Said to be from Thessaly, this small stamp pendant fits well with a group of such objects from central and southern Greece. The purpose of a stamp seal of this type remains unclear. It could have been used for marking clay or wax sealings, or even for producing wax blanks in order to cast triangular bosses or pendants, which might have formed elements for a necklace or a belt. It was made sometime in the eighth century BCE or slightly earlier (1). I. Kilian-Dirlmeier illustrates a number of close parallels, most of which were found in Peloponnesian sanctuaries (2).

NOTES:

1. For the date, see I. Kilian-Dirlmeier, Anhänger in Griechenland von der mykenischen bis zur spätgeometrischen Zeit, Prähistorische Bronzefunde 11.2 (Munich, 1979) 40-41, nos. 163-266, pls. 11-16.

2. Ibid., 38-42, pls. 15-16.


David G. Mitten

Publication History

David Moore Robinson, "The Robinson Collection of Greek Gems, Seals, Rings, and Earrings", Hesperia Supplements (1949), Vol. 8, 305-323, 475-480, p. 311, no. 11, pl. 40.11.

Fogg Art Museum, The David Moore Robinson Bequest of Classical Art and Antiquities, A Special Exhibition, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1961), p. 42, no. 378.

Imma Kilian-Dirlmeier, Anhänger in Griechenland von der mykenischen bis zur spätgeometrischen Zeit, C. H. Beck (Munich, 1979), no. 263, pl. 16.

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu