Gold Seal (bulla) of Thomas, Despot of Epiros (1296-1318)
British Museum, London.


A larger image of this Byzantine Seal of Despot Thomas, Epirus, 1313-18, British Museum 1862,0729.1.

Object type: sealing
Museum number: 1862,0729.1
Description:
Byzantine gold seal (bulla) of Thomas, Despot of Epiros (1296-1318) of the dynasty of Angelos; obverse: the archangel Michael, full-length, in imperial costume, a sceptre in his right hand and an orb in his left, each surmounted by a patriarchal cross; inscribed; reverse: the despot, full-length, in imperial costume, a sceptre in his right hand and the anexikakia in his left; above left, the hand of God, blessing; inscribed in the field.
Culture/period: Late Byzantine
Date: 1313-1318 (circa)
Materials: gold
Technique: stamped
Dimensions: Diameter: 32.7 millimetres (max); Thickness: 1.5 millimetres; Weight: 7.13 grammes
Greek Inscription:
ΡΙΧ ΚΥΡΙΟΥ.
ΑΓΓΕΛΟΓΟΝΟΥ CΦΡΑΓΙCΜΑ ΘѠΜΑ ΔΕCΠΟΤΟΥ
Inscription Translation:
Hand (?) of the Lord.
Seal of the Despot Thomas the Angelos
Source: British Museum 1948,1211,0.25



Fig. 165 Detail of the seal of Despot Thomas, Epirus, 1313-18

Whether we agree that the inversion of the feathers on the toupha was the result of a borrowing from Sasanian iconography or simply a change in fashion, the fact is that a tiara with downward feathers existed in the Byzantine world at least since early 14th century. Indeed, on a gold seal of Thomas, Despot of Epirus, at a time when Epirus and Byzantium were moving toward open conflict, and in an act of defiance (c. 1313-18), Thomas is not only usurping the imperial prerogative to use a gold seal but also portrays himself in full imperial regalia, including a tiara with feathers flowing from under it (fig. 165).218 Such a colorful feathered tiara undoubtedly left a lasting impression in the region, for we can even detect its presence in the shape of feathered crowns of winged angels in later Persian and Ottoman miniatures (fig. 164).219

218 Talbot 2004, pp. 35-36.
219 For another angel wearing the same feathered crown amid a multitude of angels each wearing a different crown, see for instance Welch 1976, p. 96.

Fig. 164 Angel with feathered crown, detail of a drawing on paper, c. 1580, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, inv. [F19]33.6
Fig. 165 Detail of the seal of Despot Thomas, Epirus, 1313-18, British Museum, London (M&LA 62.7-29.1).

Source: p.116, Decoding Old Masters Patrons, Princes and Enigmatic Paintings of the 15th Century by Abolala Soudavar



Other 14th century Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers
Byzantine Illustrations of Costume and Soldiers