The seal as an artifact in very small format displays a multiplicity of images and signs. With a 9000 year-old history the seal belongs to one of the oldest and most enduring forms of image reproduction, embracing numerous cultures.More.
A seal matrix, or cylinder seal, seal tongs or gems mounted in seal rings can produce a large quantity of impressions in clay, lead or wax. In comparison with other artifacts seals have an exponentially high and wide distribution, in diplomatic correspondence and in trade, and as objects of representation and collection as well. Both the seal matrix and the seal impression are three dimensional, that is, sculptural images - insculptae imagines : the recessed image of the die appears raised and relief-like on the impression. An enormous number of seals are preserved. They are objects of investigation in such disciplines as Egyptology, archaeology, Jewish, Byzantine and Islamic studies, medieval historical studies, and, increasingly in recent times, art history, albeit within the context of the single field of research. According to the traditions of the respective discipline emphasis is laid either on the seal die or on the seal impression.
The conference to be held at the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Max-Planck-Institut, in Florence will encompass seals from late antiquity to early modern times in the Mediterranean area as a region of contact and coexistence of different cultures. Considering the seal as a transcultural image and medium of reproduction, the conference aims to bring together the disciplines mentioned above.