Essay, Research Paper: Form In Art


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The object in question is marked as a Syrian, Bronze Age, stone label seal (c.
3rd- 2nd millennium). Most of the seals I have viewed have much more
representational forms on them than this object has. I have not been able to
find any books which have pictures of items with this name, which leads me to
believe that it has been marked wrong. The object resembles a small, oval shaped
bead with indentations in the centers of the longer sides, making it look like
the number 8. Both sides have the same, simple decoration of carved lines;(if
the object is viewed with the hole through its middle going up to down rather
than left to right) two vertical lines in the center and four horizontal lines
on either side of these. One side of the object is flat, but the other side is
convex. After viewing many pictures of seals and cylinder seals, I find it
unusual that this object should be marked as a seal because the design of its
decoration is so simple. It seems more likely that this object is what one
definition calls a token or “a small, stone or clay bead worn on a string
about the neck. Each token was a different size or shape and stood for different
business transactions. An impression would be made in clay or wax signifying
that the transaction took place.”(1). These tokens were often only a shape
that could be recognized as being different from other individual’s token
shapes, like a person’s signature. The indentations and line decoration on the
token make it resemble a pair of wings. The shape of the token’s flat side and
rounded side are like a human chest cavity. This could be a combination of human
(skeleton) and spirituality (wings). There are many depictions of winged gods
and goddesses in ancient Near Eastern art. Though this object is highly
utilitarian and has little representational decoration, it seems likely that
there would be a connection between its wing-like shape and the frequency of
wings in other Syrian art. The shape of wings being repeated on a token used for
business transactions seems to signify that the concept of wings is important
culturally. This implies that the Syrian culture fused their religious beliefs
with other aspects of their lives. One example of a similar shape used in a
religious sculpture is of a North Syrian goddess with a bird’s face from the
2nd millennium BC. The chest cavity and wings of this goddess sculpture have a
very similar shape to the token. The lines on the wings of the sculpture radiate
down to the edges of the wings like the horizontal lines on the token. The
indented-oval shape is also repeated here. Shaping a tool (tool, meaning: the
object in its metonymical sense), to look like a pair of wings, makes the object
metaphorical. The object was made with simple decorations to only imply the
shape of wings because it was a tool which identified a person or business with
a quickly recognizable icon. This is much like a company logo would be today,
though the significance of wings was probably used here because of its spiritual
implications. One winged Near Eastern goddess, Inanna, was thought to be the
bringer of bounty and fertility (2). In this case, using wings for a business
tool may be thought to bring plentiful success to the user of the tool. Another
example of wings being depicted in Syrian art is on a cylinder seal with a
winged sun disk and lion attacking animals (1500-1300 BC). This example has more
in common with the token metaphorically On this seal the winged sun represents
male power; the strength of the lion defeating the other animals. The difference
here is in the figure in the center of the wings. On the token, there are only
two vertical lines between the wing shapes; a figurative “blank space”.
There is no actual body represented on the token, only the two lines, as if they
are the space where a body could be. Any winged creature could be placed between
the lines on the token. The space between those two lines makes the tool have a
shifting metaphorical value. It is like a space to be filled whichever deity can
best help with the business at hand. The lines could also imply that the user
himself is winged, powerful like a god. The user of the tool can place himself
between the lines. The minimal decoration on this object is so unlike much of
the art I have viewed from the Syrian culture during this time period. Though
the object is metonymical as a tool, its design and shape are highly
metaphorical in their simplicity.

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