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Entre texte et image : sceaux à monogramme sassanides (Between text and image: Sassanid monogram seals)

Conference by Olivia Ramble, PhD student, EPHE, at 6 PM in the auditorium of Musée Cernuschi.

Seals depicting monograms form an important part of the Sasanian glyptic corpus. Unlike emblems or other abstract designs, 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, the Sasanian monograms are a striking example of the fusion of text and image and the creation of a hybrid motif, part inscription and part 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 offered readings of some of them based on the letters within the different compositions. More recently, Gyselen (2012) carried out an in-depth study of these patterns using a specially developed computer program. However, researchers remain divided on the interpretation – stylized grapheme or decorative component? – more ornamental elements, such as the heart or the crescent. This study intends to take up the file of Sassanian monogrammed seals and proposes readings for some of them by seeking the key to their decipherment beyond the field of onomastics. It pays particular attention to the pragmatic aspects of the seals, and in particular the images and formulas they bear.