The Matrix collection of seals, sold by Lyon & Turnbull (26% buyer’s premium) in Edinburgh on May 19, was put together by the late David Morris.
A collector in the truest sense (he is best known for the Morris collection of Scottish provincial silver sold at Christie’s in 1984), he bought seals for their historical interest as well as their beauty. A total of 145 pieces, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, were published in the book Matrix: A Collection of British Seals (2012).
They included a handsome Regency example fashioned in lapis lazuli, amethyst and gold (pictured top) for Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) of Abbotsford. By 1820 Scott was very much part of the Scottish gentry with this seal used for letters to the great and the good, including the correspondence that led to George IV’s famous visit to Scotland in 1824.
It was confidently estimated at £12,000-15,000 but was permitted to sell at £11,000.
Great care and cost were lavished on the creation of personal desk seals for Georgian and Victorian society figures. Some of the finest and most elaborate were made when a marriage or inheritance necessitated a new armorial.
A good example, also sold at £11,000, was a late 19th century rock crystal and multi-gem desk seal made to commemorate the marriage of Lady Mary-Victoria Douglas-Hamilton (1850-1922) and the Hungarian count Prince Tasziló II Festetics de Tolna (1850-1933). It was thought to have been a wedding gift from the groom’s sister.
Lady Mary Victoria’s first marriage in 1869 had been to Prince Albert of Monaco (their son Louis was the great-grandfather of Prince Rainier III) but the union was finally annulled in January 1880 which allowed for a ‘love match’ to Tasziló in June 1880.