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One of the largest collections of medieval seal matrices — and almost certainly the largest collection of private seal matrices — in the world : 402 individual matrices ranging in date from the 12th to the end of the 16th century; in material from lead to silver, bronze and classical gemstones; and in subject of their devices from figures of identified owners to lions, stags, squirrels, dragons and grotesques.

402 medieval seal matrices, ranging in size from 8mm to 70mm in diameter, and made from a variety of materials: the majority of lead and copper alloy, 11 silver, 1 made from a bronze Roman sestertius, 1 ivory, and several incorporating classical gemstones. The earliest seals are flat and usually have a tab at the top which is often pierced for attachment. Modern wooden display box.

(1) Most of the seals in the collection were produced in England and have been discovered in the 1980s and 1990s with the aid of metal detectors. Some, from the evidence of the names of the owners and styles of the matrices, were clearly made on the Continent although discovered in the UK, while others may have belonged to Englishmen who carried them abroad (see, for example, a number of the Crusader seals). In some cases, the locations of the finds are logical: the seal of a priest, William of Stamford, was found at Stamford in Lincolnshire; the seal of the Archdeacon of Rochester came from East Kent, and the heraldic seal of William of Stoneham was found in the village of Stoneham in Hampshire (MS 2223/1, 6 and 362). Others are more puzzling: it is not clear, for example, why the important large matrix of a Norman Benedictine Abbey should have been found in Cambridgeshire (MS 2223/67), nor why the seal of Finn Gautsson should have been discovered near Norwich, unless perhaps the owner was returning to Norway from King's Lynn after signing the Treaty of Perth.

(2) Bought en bloc from Quaritch in 1997 (with the exception of MS 2223/16, purchased from Glendining, 2 October 1996, lot 490).

(3) The Schøyen Collection, MS 2223.

The catalogue of Medieval Seal Matrices in the Schøyen Collection (R. Linenthal and W. Noel, Oslo, 2014), a copy of which accompanies the collection, categorises each individual seal according to the subject of its device. To give a sense of the scope, variety and diversity of the collection, we have followed the same logic below, since this is surely how they would have been recognised when they were made, though it is beyond the scope of this catalogue to provide a comprehensive listing. For a full description and image, along with specific provenance information of each seal matrix in the collection please contact the department.

Human figures, figures and busts with religious sentiment, figures and busts with a secular sentiment
There are 46 matrices within this category, ranging from the 13th to the late 16th century, of which 24 belonged to identified religious or secular owners: these are the named ones belonging to William of Stamford, the Archdeacon of Rochester, Prior Ottwi from the convent of Augustinian Hermits, James Monteau (canon and priest of Oudenaarde in Eastern Flanders), William Tourlour of Paris and Agnes of Hillun, among others. Highlights are the exceptional 15th-century seal of the Bishop of Man (MS 2223/11), identified as Thomas Burton (or Barton), finely engraved and in excellent condition; the late 16th-century official seal of Anthony Blincow, Chancellor of Chichester and Commissary of the Archdeaconry of Lewes (MS 2223/12); the seal matrix for the Court of Pleas of Durham from the bishopric of Thomas Matthew (Bishop of Durham from 1595-1606), composed of two parts which fit together (MS 2223/13); and the exceptional mid-13th-century matrix of Finn Gautsson, depicting a knight on horseback and bearing a clear legend in excellent lombardic: 'S' FINNONIS BARONIS REGIS NORWAGIE' (MS 2223/16). The latter is a magnificent newly discovered representative of Anglo-Norwegian art in the middle of the 13th century. Finn Gautsson certainly visited England once: he was a signatory to the Treaty of Perth, in which the Hebrides and the Isle of Man were ceded to Scotland for 4,000 marks following the defeat of the Norwegian fleet at Largs in 1263.

Religious figures and symbols
78 matrices fall within this category, ranging in date from the c.1200 to the 15th century, including a French 13th-century matrix depicting a full-length tonsured male saint or abbot from the Benedictine Abbey of Ste. Marie de S. Pierre sur Dive, in the diocese of Lisieux (MS 2223/67); the official 15th-century seal of the Hospital of St Giles, depicting the Saint under a gothic architectural canopy (MS 2223/79); and a woman's lead seal from c.1200 depicting the Lamb of God (MS 2223/80).

165 matrices fall within this varied and diverting category, which boasts lions, stags, hares, squirrels, eagles, owls and a whole panoply of other animals. Particularly striking is the 14th-century official seal of the Alnager of Kent: the person in charge of ensuring quality and uniformity of cloth, which depicts a lion's head (MS 2223/149). MS 2223/245, depicting a bird with the lombardic legend 'SIGILLUM ROLANDI OISUN' is a fascinating and extremely rare survival because the face of the seal was engraved in c.1200 on the reverse of a Roman bronze sestertius of Antoninus Pius (Emperor from 138-161, see lot 413). MS 2223/278 is another early matrix from the turn of the 13th century, depicting a winged griffin.

Miscellaneous (grotesques, abstract designs, heraldic motifs, initials, gems)
Among the remaining 113 matrices we find an exquisite and very rare tiny 14th-century silver seal matrix in the form of a sculpted Virgin and Child, with the device at its base stylised foliage above a heart (MS 2223/326); a late 12th-century rare polished ivory matrix, one of only two in the collection with a positively inscribed legend (MS 2223/328); an exceptionally fine English mid-13th century counterseal, comparable in quality and importance to that of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, c.1239 (MS 2223/350); the elaborate heraldic seal of Thomas de Ros, Lord Ros (1427-1464), who served under Henry VI and Edward IV in the War of the Roses, and executed in Newcastle on 17 May 1464 (MS 2223/368); and a series of 13th and 14th century English matrices with intaglio gems dating from Ancient Rome (MSS 2223/398-401).
Special notice
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

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Eugenio Donadoni
Eugenio Donadoni

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