Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: An Engraved Fob Seal, 1815-1820

Fob Seal
Chased and engraved gold and topaz/
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Known as a fob seal, this would been attached to a gentleman’s watch chain, usually worn just below the waist, suspended from a small pocket in the trousers known as a “fob.”

While decidedly decorative, seals were the height of functionality, used to impress designs on sealing wax. This particular seal by an unknown maker dates between 1815 and 1820 and features a “swiveling” seal of a three-sided topaz which has been engraved with a scene of burning ships, billowing plumes of smoke, at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar--when the Nelson led the British to defeat the French.

The engraving bears the inscription “ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN THIS DAY WILL DO HIS DUTY” in reverse so that, when impressed into the wax, they would read correctly. The setting is adorned with beautifully chased scrolls and flowers indicative of the Rococo Revival of the early Nineteenth Century.

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