Conté on printmaking paper, approx. 12″ x 17″, 2013
Sigils take their origin from ancient seals that were impressed into wax, clay or other soft materials to signify the authorization of the owner, much like a signature was used in paper documents. Sigils were particularly useful in preliterate or largely illiterate societies where it was necessary to communicate authorization or authenticity for legal, governmental or ecclesiastic purposes without recourse to written language. Animal-based sigils were often chosen to embody characteristics with which the owner wished to associate the family name. Over time sigils became stylized and often included complex patterns and use of distinctive colors. Ultimately, sigils morphed into heraldry and were incorporated into shields, weaponry, banners, pendants, clothes and other accoutrements.