You may remember that this chap featured in an Instagram post that went out at Halloween last year and was photographed alongside another picture of a skull?
In any case, the seal pops up every now and again and every time I pick it up, I get that same feeling of captivation – it is certainly unusual from a seal point of view, in that it is big, asymmetric and made with three marvellous materials, quite apart from the subject matter. So, starting from the top – we have a remarkably well carved ivory skull with aged hairline cracks on the temple, beautifully detailed teeth (or lack of) and appears to be anatomically accurate. The eye sockets are carved in a slightly menacing way, or rather, the eyebrows are set in an uneasy frown expression.
This skull sits atop a pile of three books made from boxwood and carved in such a way to give the impression of being roughly stacked. Although similar to each other, they are, in fact, individually unique in design with carved pages and really very realistic looking. Below these books is a slender silver collar with band at the uppermost point, forming part of the integral matrix which is oval in form and features silver marks and “+” mark to indicate the correct alignment of the seal beneath.
The matrix on the reverse is actually a stamp rather than a wax matrix, and is engraved for a Vittorio Emmanuelle from Italy, a Notary. The style of matrix is fascinating and very Italianate together with an elaborate armorial shield and mantling under a royal coronet.