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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cylinder seal and modern impression: bearded deity flanked by kneeling heroes; Horus and monkeys; ibex-demon; sphinx trampling serpents

Old Syrian
ca. 19th century B.C.
H. 3/4 in. (2.2 cm) x W. 1/2 in. (1.1 cm)
Stone-Cylinder Seals
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1991
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 406
Although engraved stones had been used as early as the seventh millennium B.C. to stamp impressions in clay, the invention in the fourth millennium B.C. of carved cylinders that could be rolled over clay allowed the development of more complex seal designs. These cylinder seals, first used in Mesopotamia, served as a mark of ownership or identification. Seals were either impressed on lumps of clay that were used to close jars, doors, and baskets, or they were rolled onto clay tablets that recorded information about commercial or legal transactions. The seals were often made of precious stones. Protective properties may have been ascribed to both the material itself and the carved designs. Seals are important to the study of ancient Near Eastern art because many examples survive from every period and can, therefore, help to define chronological phases. Often preserving imagery no longer extant in any other medium, they serve as a visual chronicle of style and iconography.

The modern impression of the seal is shown so that the entire design can be seen. This seal shows a complex scene. A two-faced nude bearded and belted deity with streams flowing from his shoulders is flanked by two kneeling nude belted male figures holding lotus flowers and spears. Above this scene a Horus falcon with outspread wings, surmounted by a crescent with disc, is flanked by two squatting monkeys and stars. A smaller nude figure with a caprid head holding a mace strides behind a kneeling figure. Above him, a sphinx strides on two snakes.
By the 1930s, collection of Mrs. William H. Moore (until d. 1955); from 1955, on loan to the Museum by The Right Reverend Paul Moore, Jr.; acquired by the Museum in 1991, purchased from Sotheby's, New York, December 12th, 1991, no. 104.

“Mit Sieben Siegeln Versehen: das Siegel in Wirtschaft und Kunst des Alten Orients.” Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, May 30, 1997–September 28, 1997.

Eisen, Gustavus A. 1940. Ancient Oriental Cylinder and other Seals with a Description of the Collection of Mrs. William H. Moore. Oriental Institute Publications 42. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, no .134, pp. 58-59, pl. XIII.

Williams- Forte, Elizabeth. 1976. A Selection of Stamp and Cylinder Seals from the Collection of Mrs. William H. Moore. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 10.

Porada, Edith. 1977. "A Cylinder Seal with a Camel in the Walters Art Gallery." The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 36. Essays in Honor of Dorothy Kent Hill, pp. 5-6, fig. 6.

Sotheby's. The Ada Small Moore Collection of Ancient Near Eastern Seals. 12 December 1991, New York, lot 104.

Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 122 (Jul. 1, 1991 - Jun. 30, 1992), p. 19.

Teissier, Beatrice. 1995. Egyptian Iconography on Syro-Palestinian Cylinder Seals of the Middle Bronze Age. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 11. Series Archaeologica. Fribourg: University Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, no. 143.
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