Consistent and transient motifs

Some motifs are found on seals throughout the Middle Ages while others were especially popular in particular periods. In addition, certain motifs appear to have been used by people from across society, while others were associated with particular social groups. Indeed it has been suggested that this was a principle purpose of some generic types of image: that the viewer was able to gauge someone’s place in society through the visual evidence of the motif on their seal.
To explain the relatively brief appearance of some types of motif it is crucial to remember that seals did not operate in isolation but were part of a much broader visual and material culture which, just like today, witnessed trends in popularity.