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Photographs from De long en large Ladakh by Jean Mansion - Édition Findakly. Copyright Lise Mansion

23.04.25.Affiche.OSEECHAC APRIL 2023 CONFERENCE

Between text and image: Sassanian monogram seals
by Olivia Ramble, Doctorante, EPHE

Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at 6:00 pm in the auditorium of the Cernuschi Museum

Seals depicting monograms constitute an important part of the Sassanid glyptic corpus. Unlike emblems or other abstract motifs, monograms incorporate Middle Persian alphabetic characters into their composition - although sometimes in such a stylized form that it is difficult to identify the grapheme represented. As such, Sassanid monograms are a striking example of the fusion of text and image and the creation of a hybrid motif, both inscription and icon. For a long time, monograms were considered abstract symbols that could not be interpreted, until Unvala (1953) brought together several series of monograms in a single catalog and proposed readings of some of them on the basis of the letters within the various compositions. More recently, Gyselen (2012) has made an extensive study of these motifs using a specially developed computer program. However, scholars remain divided over the interpretation - stylized grapheme or decorative component? - of the most ornamental elements, such as the heart or the crescent. This study intends to take up the file of Sassanid monogram seals and proposes readings for some of them by seeking the key to their deciphering beyond the domain of onomastics. It pays particular attention to the pragmatic aspects of the seals, and in particular to the images and formulas they bear.

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