It Looks Broken!

Antique seal with broken corner

Modern seal carvers try to imitate the look of ancient seals like this one with a broken corner.

An artist friend purchased a seal in China and when she got home and tried it out she was disappointed with how it looked, saying “It looks broken!” There were some small breaks between the lines of the characters and she didn’t understand that these were intentional, meant to give the seal an antique look. People who are unfamiliar with the art of Chinese seals often think this way, expecting the seal impression to be perfect, with no uneven surfaces, all lines of equal width, and so on. A perfect, machine-like regularity is the opposite of what a seal carver strives for in a finished work of art.

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