Cylinder Seals

Image from Met Museum.

I took a trip with my parents and wife in September 2009 to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. During the trip we visited the Biltmore Masion, which is a huge estate, built in the French chateau style. The views are amazing, the interior and exterior are full of inspirational moments.   Even though the estate was not built that long ago, the shear amount of old-world imagery there still has a lasting effect on me.  I would like to note that while I took a lot of reference shots there, I have yet to use any of them.  I love the architecture, but it is so far removed from my normal themes I am not sure what to do with them.

Also during that trip we visited the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.  Kathy and myself love to visit art museums when we travel, and have been known to make trips around current exhibitions. Luckily my parents love to tag along with us, which is always exciting. During this trip to the High, there was a traveling show from the Louvre. While the show was not all that we thought it would be, there was several examples of how scribes made notes, and how they sealed the documents.

I decided to start this post talking about the Biltmore, because my visit there caused me to starting thinking about how things were done in the past.  These thoughts continued while we were viewing the Louvre exhibition, and that is where I stumbled upon cylinder seals. I was fascinated by the seals, by the why, and how they were created along with the old-world process of using them.  Thanks to the Biltmore I was already thinking about how every day tasks were accomplished and how many of them seem so ingenious.  Lets just say I was hooked at first sight, and I think I spent almost as much time looking at them (almost) as I did the Rembrandt prints.

During the trip back, and since then I have toyed with the idea of cylinder prints, instead of cylinder seals.  The big difference here is that the seals I saw, and have researched were not for printing on paper.  Most of these seals were made to roll through wet clay-not inked for paper- making an actual 3D relief.  The images/text would be carved or impressed into the cylinder made of wood, bone, stone or clay.

From my graphic design experience, I am familiar with offset printing, and while this is similar it is different. In offset the plate, generally a metal of some kind it burnt and then wrapped around a cylinder, inked and printed.  Here my plate would be the cylinder, causing some experimenting when it comes to carving, inking and printing the block.

I tried taking some images of my recent attempt with cylinder prints, but unfortunately the pics did not come out right.  I will re-take the shots, and post them soon. Till then enjoy following my path to learning more about these seals.

Click here to view the second post on cylinder seals.

Here are some links from my research on cylinder seals.

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