ROMAN. Circa 300-350. Seal (Lead, 20 mm, 4.55 g). The story of Jonah: in upper register, Jonah being thrown from the ship by a sailor; below, on the left, ketos ready to swallow him up; second sailor on the right side of the mast; in the middle register, on the right, Jonah emerging from the ketos to the right; in lower register, Jonah reclining beneath a goard tree. Cf. Spier, Late antique and early Christian gems, S6 (for a lead seal with the same scenes, but in a different design). A highly interesting Roman seal with very early Christian imagery. Good very fine.
From a collection of lead tesserae from Asia Minor.
Scenes from the narrative cycle of Jonah were very popular in early Christian art. The story is already understood as foreshadowing the death and resurrection of Jesus by the Gospel writers: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whales' belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:39-41 and 16:4; Luke 11:29-32). Because Jonah was immersed in water, the story could also serve as a symbol for baptism.