Inscribed 'Designed and wrought by David MacGregor, Perth', this rectangular oak casket features applied silver panels and borders, each profusely pierced and engraved with acanthus border and fine foliate and scroll interlace panels. The front panel also includes full armorial, the cover a cast heraldic eagle, and the presentation panel is inscribed 'Presented to The Honourable The Master of Strathallan by Tenants on Strathallan Estate on occasion of celebrating his coming of age 29th December 1892'.
David MacGregor of Perth was renowned for his 'art engraving' and was regarded as one of the most important and skilled craftsman in this field, not only in Scotland but far beyond. The surviving body of MacGregor's work, whilst not large in comparison to many silversmiths of this period, is of extremely high quality. Perhaps the largest and finest collection of his work is featured in the collection of Perth Museum & Art Gallery. MacGregor benefited greatly from the revival of interest in all things Scottish through Queen Victoria's love for the country, and indeed was patronised by Royalty on numerous occasions. When awarded the Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria he styled himself 'Jeweller to the Queen'.
MacGregor was based in Perth from 1863. He trained with leading Edinburgh engravers Begbie & Lee and Thomas Holiday. His skill was undeniable and he is known to have made many high quality engraved and decorated luxury wares. In 1884 the Goldsmiths Company of London presented him a prize of £10 for the representation of the Royal arms of his Royal Highness Prince of Wales on a silver salver. MacGregor's clients varied from these Royal commissions to important local and Scottish gentry and civic and sporting prizes. He regularly created medallions, card cases and other small silver luxuries. Large items such as this casket are, however, rare.
Perhaps the largest and most important surviving commission was the pair of monumental vases and freedom casket presented to the Marquis of Breadalbane in 1894, by tenants of his estates. As is seen from the Breadalbane presentation silver and many other important engraved commissions, MacGregor bought in much of his stock silver and was merely a decorator and engraver of the pieces. As his training was mainly in engraving rather than silversmithing this is unsurprising. This example, however, appears to have been wholly made in his Perth workshop as is suggested by the engraving ‘designed and wrought by David MacGregor’.
The finely engraved decoration and armorial to this piece follow regular themes used by MacGregor in his designs, with fine interlace and patterns and a skilled hand to armorials and lettering. It is obvious from Macgregor's other commissions, including card cases featuring Gainsborough portraits, Royal portraits and scenes of the Breadalbane estate, that his inspiration is not only artistic but was a skilled interpreter of known patterns. The fine detailed and skilled rendition of his work is constant and is done with a fine hand and skill in the application and engraving; furthermore, bold border and cartouche designs are often a noted feature of his larger wares.