Small-Sword

Small-Sword

c. 1790-1800

Hilt: gold with blue translucent enamel; blade: etched, blued and gilded steel

Overall: 97 cm (38 3/16 in.); Blade: 81 cm (31 7/8 in.); Hilt: 16.5 cm (6 1/2 in.)

Weight: 0.43 kg

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2002.1

Description

This example shows the small-sword at its latest and most refined stage of development. Though highly reflective of French taste, it was probably fashioned in a Swiss workshop under French influence or by a French craftsman working in Switzerland. Worn publicly as an emblem of social rank, this sword was likely custom-made for an affluent individual to use on formal or court occasions.
So-called because of its short blade, the small-sword emerged as the light and quick weapon of choice for aristocratic civilians during the 1700s. Such a sword was traditionally suspended at about mid-thigh from the left side of a belt, the hilt exposed through the opening of the gentleman's coat. Highly visible, the hilt invited lavish decoration through precious materials such as gold and enamels, as seen here. Considered a type of masculine jewelry at that time, small-swords featured a variety of hilt styles that went in and out of fashion. Many were decorated to match personal costume, and jewelers worked on the finest small-swords of the day.

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