c1630 Italian Steel Armorial Desk Seal
A steel desk seal, Italian dating to c1630, of flatiron form with pierced handle, the integral oval matrix engraved with a coat of arms below a noble crown, within a mantle with inscription and dotted border, reading:
FRA. FERANT. GONZAGAS . S . R . I . P
According to Dr Peter Bander-van-Duren, a noted authority on religious heraldry, the arms are those of Gonzaga of Italy. He states that the appellation "Fra" was used by professed knights and members of the Sovereign Council of the Military Order of Malta, although they would always bear the cross of Malta in chief. He further suggests that the letters "S.R.I.P" may be the abbreviated initials of a so-far-unidentified religious or equestrian order.
Diameter of matrix 26mm x 29mm