MS 2223/401
Description MS in Latin on silver, England, 13th c., 1 pointed oval face seal matrix, 2,3x1,8 cm, 1 line in Lombardic script, plain outer border, flat reverse with a bevelled edge, pierced suspension loop in the shape of a dragon's head with inset Roman cornelian stone, 1st. c. of "Mars Gradivus" (the god marching), nude apart from a helmet and loin-cloth/scarf and carrying a spear and trophy.
Context For comparable examples of this common type see M. Henig, "A Corpus of Roman Engraved Gemstones from British Sites", British Archaeological Reports, British Series 8, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1978, nos. 70-74, app. 71, app. 86, app. 98.
Provenance 1. Found in Essex; 2. Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London.
Commentary MSS 2223/398-401 are set with classical Roman intaglios. The magical powers of different stones were codified in the medieval Lapidary, a text particularly popular in England in the 13th c., and engraved gems assumed an even greater amuletic character. The re-use of Roman gems in seal matrices was widespread in the Middle Ages. In addition to their amuletic properties, intaglios were well adapted to their original purpose of making an impression on a sealing, and they were readily mounted in silver and gold for an important and wealthy clientele. They were seldom set in more ordinary bronze since the heat required to make the setting probably would have cracked the gem. A great number of gems found in English medieval settings are from before the Roman Conquest of Britain in AD 43, which suggests that although some were found on Roman sites in Britain many were imported during the Middle Ages.
Published Manuscripts in The Schøyen Collection, ed.-in-chief, Prof. Jens Braarvig. vol. IV: Medieval seal matrices. Ed. by Richard Linenthal and William Noel. Oslo, Hermes, 2004.
See also MS 590/26, Wax seal, England, 1297
MS 1783, Wax seals, England, 1311
MS 590/41, Papal bull with lead seal, France, 1321
MS 1656, Wax seal, Scotland, 1417
Place of origin England
Dates 13c AD