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Sword

  • Place of origin:

    France (possibly, made)
    Switzerland (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1760 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hilt cast, chiselled and pierced gold

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by E. Fairclough

  • Museum number:

    M.40:1, 2-1973

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93 mezzanine, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 80, shelf 3 []

From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared in response to new fencing techniques that emphasised thrusting at speed. They were worn increasingly with civilian clothes as ‘small swords’, offering a means of self-defence but largely denoting status for the well-dressed gentleman.

Small swords were items of male jewellery. By the 1750s, their elaborate gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enamelling, were the products of the goldsmith and jeweller rather than the swordsmith. They made fitting rewards for distinguished military and naval service. With their blades tucked away inside scabbards, it was their ostentatious and expensive hilts that carried their thrust.

Decorated with garlands, ribbons and triumphal military emblems this is a classic presentation small-sword of the mid-18th century. The finger loops and the shell guard offers little protection for the hand. The hilt is finely pierced and was probably the work of a gold-box maker. The sword's strength is as a work of art rather than as a weapon.

Physical description

Cast, chiselled and pierced gold, unmarked

Place of Origin

France (possibly, made)
Switzerland (possibly, made)

Date

ca. 1760 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Hilt cast, chiselled and pierced gold

Dimensions

Height: 95.5 cm, Width: 8 cm, Depth: 6.8 cm

Object history note

Decorated with garlands, ribbons and triumphal military emblems this is a classic presentation small-sword of the mid-18th century. The finger loops and the shell guard offers little protection for the hand. The hilt is finely pierced and was probably the work of a gold-box maker. The sword's strength is as a work of art rather than as a weapon.

Historical context note

From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared in response to new fencing techniques that emphasised thrusting at speed. They were worn increasingly with civilian clothes as ‘small swords’, offering a means of self-defence but largely denoting status for the well-dressed gentleman.

Small swords were items of male jewellery. By the 1750s, their elaborate gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enamelling, were the products of the goldsmith and jeweller rather than the swordsmith. They made fitting rewards for distinguished military and naval service. With their blades tucked away inside scabbards, it was their ostentatious and expensive hilts that carried their thrust.

Descriptive line

Small sword and sheath, French or Swiss, about 1760

Materials

Gold

Techniques

Cast; Pierced

Categories

ELISE; Arms & Armour

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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