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No 478 Medieval Seal

No 478 Medieval Seal Image

This could be classed as our most beautiful medieval bronze seal. The following identification was provided by a friend who took the trouble to research the seal fully. The matrix is of a standard shape, and probably dates from the 14th or 15th century. The legend is frequently found on seals; the French PRIVE SV (literally "private I am") meaning "Private". However, although the legend is a common one, the device is not. Working with a mirrored image of the matrix, ie, what the impressed matrix would have produced, one has what appears to be the combination of two, originally separate, coats of arms, suggesting a marriage; the arms on the left are those of the husband, those on the right of the wife.

The strange beast on the left appears to be a wyvern, a mythical creature with the head, upper limbs and wings of an heraldic dragon, and a snake-like tail ending in a barb. Records of wyverns in heraldry are fairly sparse, and although there are some of the creature segreant (i.e., rearing up, as in this case) I can find no record of such a creature with wings closed (close) and looking backwards (reguardant), hence cannot suggest a possible owner.

The beast on the right-hand side is a lion in the rampant position; this is, in fact, the same position as segreant is with the wyvern (compare the position of the upper limbs), but different terms are used for the two beasts. Unlike the wyvern, the lion is extremely common in heraldry, particularly the lion rampant, and without either information as to the colour of the lion and its background (which can be portrayed on seals by fine hatched lines which represent colours depending on their direction) or an exact find location, it is impossible to even hazard a guess as to the wife's family. As the piece was found near Oxford, however, it does raise one interesting possibility; there is a record of the Tame family of Oxfordshire using argent a wyvern (sometimes a dragon) vert combating with a lion rampant azure crowned or many years later. Although these are not the identical arms they have sufficient in common with the matrix to suggest that they may be related.

Your Price:£4.99
Weight:6.80 g