Smallsword

1997.01

Description

Narrow, acutely tapering plain steel blade of hollow-ground triangular section. Cast silver hilt with scrolling strapwork & radiating palmette motifs on punch-matted ground. Wood grip tapering to ends, alternately wrapped in iron & silver ribbon, between which are 2 sizes of twisted silver wire & 1 of copper. Silver wire "Turk's heads" at ends. Hilt of Norman's type 112. Small bivalve shell guard. Tall, slightly baggy stool with stepped base, functional arms of hilt. Short rear quillon bent towards obverse shell, with swollen, leafy terminal. Opposed by flattish, C-shaped knuckle guard, swollen at middle where both faces decorated with running & scrolling strapwork. Terminal with leafy scroll, & plugs into base of pommel. This Norman's type 88, of oval section, egg-shaped, with slight taper to necked, molded base. At top is a flattish, integral button.

Curator's Comments

Since the Middle Ages, sword production has often been the result of a collaboration of various specialists. Some regions specialized in the production of blades. This was particularly common in the manufacture of smallswords, which often had foreign blades with locally made hilts of carved steel or fine metals such as silver, crafted by goldsmiths. A sword complete with scabbard could involve the additional services of a sheather, a girdler, and a furbisher who assembled the various elements and sold the set. Smallswords like this silver-hilted example were truly splendid fashion accessories when worn with a gentleman’s finery. The physical beauty of this weapon disguises its lethal qualities in the hands of an expert swordsman. [Sword Show] Compare decoration to later examples having Paris hallmarks of 1744/45, in the Victoria and Albert Museum (#1718-1888), in North.

Bibliography

Anthony North, "A Guide to European Swords" Jan Divis, "Guide to Gold Marks of the World" (Prague, 1978), p. 43, no. 22.
A. V. B. Norman, "The Rapier and Small-Sword, 1460-1820" (London, 1980), pp. 205-207, 281, plts. 118, 119, 121.
Seymour B. Wyler, "The Book of Old Silver" (New York, 1937), pp. 376, 385.
Jan Davis, Guide to Gold Marks of the World (Prague, 1978), p. 43, no. 22.

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