Description A winged figure with legs in the form of coiling snakes holds two horned animals by their tails. To the side, two lions attack a fallen antelope below the divine emblems of a winged disc and two rosettes. This composition is similar to a seal impression found on a letter from the Mitannian king to the king of Egypt. The art of the Mitannian kingdom, a major international power in northern Mesopotamia and eastern Syria during the 15th and 14th centuries BCE, is best known through its seals. Cylinder seals are cylindrical objects carved in reverse (intaglio) in order to leave raised impressions when rolled into clay. Seals were generally used to mark ownership, and they could act as official identifiers, like a signature, for individuals and institutions. A seal’s owner rolled impressions in wet clay to secure property such as baskets, letters, jars, and even rooms and buildings. This clay sealing prevented tampering because it had to be broken in order to access a safeguarded item. Cylinder seals were often made of durable material, usually stone, and most were drilled lengthwise so they could be strung and worn. A seal’s material and the images inscribed on the seal itself could be protective. The artistry and design might be appreciated and considered decorative as well. Cylinder seals were produced in the Near East beginning in the fourth millennium BCE and date to every period through the end of the first millennium BCE.
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore, [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Sadie Jones (Mrs. Henry Walters), New York, 1931, by inheritance; Joseph Brummer, Paris and New York, 1941, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1941, by purchase.
Credit Museum purchase [formerly part of the Walters Collection], 1941
Download Image Add to Collection Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Creative Commons License