Traditionally made from precious stones, seals contain the names of artists, collectors, and their studios or even their favorite poetic phrase. Carved seals are used to stamp red paste onto Chinese paintings or calligraphy as a symbol of ownership or authorship.
Chinese seals were used not only by artists and authors to sign art, letters, and official documents but also by art collectors to document works in their collections.
Seals demonstrated the collector’s taste and appreciation for art and left a powerful imprint, identifying the owner for future generations.
Seals, which were made in a variety of shapes and sizes, often resembled mythological creatures, such as dragons, or animals. This seal is carved in the shape of a dog from VMFA’s collection.
Chinese seals can be made out of numerous materials, including stone, metal, wood, ivory, and bamboo. This seal is carved from jade, which is a precious material that has been highly valued in China for thousands of years.
Although this piece was made a relatively short time ago, jade objects have been found in Chinese burial sites dating as early as 5000 BC.
Each page of Wu Yunlai’s Album of Twelve Landscape Paintings is stamped with two of the artist’s seals. The artist used two types of seals, zhuwen and baiwen, to sign his work.
Zhuwen seals leave an imprint of Chinese characters in red paste, as seen in the top seal. Baiwen seals print the inverse, leaving an imprint of the background in red paste, showing the characters in negative space (as in the bottom marking).
Which type of imprint do you prefer? You’ll have the opportunity to choose when you finish "carving" your personal seal.
Select from a menu of images, shapes and letters.
Move, resize and rotate your selections. Next, choose between the baiwen or zhuwen carving style.
Watch your stamp print onto a Chinese landscape painting.
Select the artwork and imagery that inspire you the most.
Choose forms inspired by VMFA’s collection to design your personal seal.
1. Select your elements and use the square corner points to move, resize and rotate them.
2. Choose the type of seal you wish to create.
3. Continue to the next step to stamp and share your seal.