The gathering of heraldry and sphragistic materials coincided with the very beginnings of the National Museum’s operations in the mid-nineteenth century, while the Heraldry and Sphragistic Collection itself was formed in the early 1970s. It consists of over 5,000 objects (grants of arms, coats-of-arms, genealogies, seal stamps and seals) which encompass the period from the fourteenth to the end of the twentieth centuries; they are originally from the territory of continental, central Croatia.
The Heraldry Collection contains objects that emerged between the sixteenth and the end of the twentieth century. A significant, albeit smaller group consists of grants of arms, which testify to the class-based society and the legal segment of grants of nobility in the territory of the historical Croatian lands from the sixteenth century to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1918, when the granting of noble titles ceased. The grants of arms belong to the domestic military nobility which emerged from the high command staff of the Military Frontier (e.g. the Grant of Arms of Martin Knežević and Franjo Jelačić)and foreign nobility who acquired indigenat. A distinction is drawn between documents drawn up on parchment, and grants of arms in the form of books, mostly from the time of Maria Theresa.
Coats of arms are the most numerous and typologically diverse set of objects which, depending on their origin and original function, have been grouped into sub-sets. The Museum’s oldest acquisitions of exceptional historical and artistic significance are wooden, multi-coloured donor coats of arms of secular and clerical magnates made in the Baroque era during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which were originally components of church altar sculpture (e.g. the coats of arms of the Zrinski lords and the Drašković and Erdödy counts). Besides dynastic coats of arms mostly painted on paper during the historicist period, a related group consists of memorial coats of arms, among which a notable group includes the metal coats of arms of the military commanders of the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier, which appeared in the early twentieth century in the facilities of the High Military Command in Zagreb. A certain documentary value is also reflected by the group of state and territorial-administrative coats of arms (Croatian historical lands, provinces, cities, municipalities and counties) and the coats of arms of associations which emerged at the end of the nineteenth century.
A special typological group inside the Collection encompasses the genealogies of noble families (e.g. Sermage, Patačić, Högger, Affry, Nugent, Eltz) made for legal or even private decorative purposes (e.g. Ratkaj, Babonić-Blagajski, Janković).
The sphragistic collection contains seal stamps and seals made from the fourteenth century to the mid-twentieth century which are divided into two groups based on origin, content and typology.
Older sphragistic materials encompass stamps made of brass, iron or copper, of which most were made during the nineteenth century, and they pertain to the institutions of the Habsburg and Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. A smaller thematic unit consists of the seal stamps of Napoleon’s Illyrian Provinces. The objects are grouped into the following categories: administrative institutions (e.g. Croatian Sabor i.e. parliament, counties, cities); the judiciary (courts and notaries public); military units and institutions; educational institutions (schools in the territory of the Croatian-Slavonian Military Frontier); culture and science (social/cultural institutions, the Museum’s history, associations); the economy (guilds, merchants, financial, customs and postal offices); religious institutions (churches, dioceses, cathedral districts, parish rectories, fraternities, orders, monasteries); and family and personal seal stamps and seals of secular and clerical magnates (e.g. Josip Jelačić, Ivan Mažuranić, Metel Ožegović). A considerable number of older sphragistic materials also consists of seals pressed into red wax, which has yet to undergo scientific and scholarly analysis.
Newer sphragistic materials are a special group of objects which includes seal stamps made during the Second World War, encompassing hand-made Partisan stamps used in the liberated territories during the People’s Liberation Struggle and the stamps used by the institutions of the Independent State of Croatia and the Italian occupation authorities. The Collection also holds a considerable number of administrative seal stamps of administrative, juridical and military institutions of the People’s Republic of Croatia from the city of Zagreb made during the 1950s.
Matea Brstilo Rešetar, senior curator