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The so-called Seven Liberal Arts inkstand, estimated at £1m-1.5m at Christie’s.

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Although it carries the mark of Alexander Jackson (London 1639), it is thought that the chased auricular ornament of scrolls, cartouches and grotesque masks was completed by Christiaen van Vianen (c.1601-67). The five allegorical scenes (seemingly original compositions rather than based on print sources) represent Geometry and Arithmetic, Astronomy and Grammar, Music, Dialectic and Rhetoric.

The coat-of-arms on the back of the inkstand is that of Craggs, for James Craggs (1657- 1721), the MP, post-master general and investor. It has appeared at Christie’s on two previous occasions: in 1893 (£446) and again in 1970 when, sold for a world-record £78,000, it was acquired by the present owner. Until this year it was on long-term loan to the V&A.

Christiaen van Vianen was the son of the celebrated Utrecht goldsmith Adam van Vianen who worked intermittently in the court of Charles I (and again following the restoration in 1660). The sponsoring of Christiaen van Vianen’s work and that of other foreign goldsmiths was a known practice. London goldsmiths, such as Jackson, would submit foreigners’ work as only freemen of the Goldsmiths’ Company were entitled to have silver assayed and hallmarked.

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