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An attractive Scottish basket hilted backsword dating to circa 1740. The well formed fluted bars and pleasing hilt profile are typical of the second quarter of the 18th century and the prelude to the last Jacobite Rebellion in 1745. The aesthetically pleasing proportions indicate Stirling as the place of manufacture and probably the workshop of John Allan the elder. The sword is well balanced and mounted with a high quality “Andrea Farara” marked blade applied with floral engraving.
The design of the main frontal guard panels is a distinguishing and rare feature of this particular hilt design. These are formed as floral shields with rounded edges to the petals. The flowing contours of these panel edges is matched by the edges of the frontal and side secondary guard plates which are filed with curves, waves, crescents and cusps, giving an overall elegance and symmetry to the hilt not often present to this degree in more usual forms.
The hilt is part of a small group of similar type. All are of the highest quality of execution, worked from thick metal and formed to create a delicate and flowing aesthetic appearance which somewhat disguises the robust construction. Two of these swords are illustrated in Cyril Mazansky’s “British Basket-Hilted Swords”, Boydell Press, 2005, page 138 (Ref G1c, a hilt with a horseman’s oval in the National Museums of Scotland Edinburgh) and page 139 (Ref G1cJA also in the NMS Edinburgh – this sword is signed by the Stirling hilt maker John Allan). Mazansky comments on two other swords of this form which were once housed in the Earlshall Castle Collection in Fife. The piercing of the panel guard plates is of the highest quality with hearts of larger size than usual – a feature commented on by Mazansky.
Our sword most resembles the sword signed by John Allan illustrated in Mazansky and who probably introduced this style of hilt. It also further represents the continued ingenuity of the Allan family of sword slippers to break the mould and experiment with different designs of hilt towards the end of the “high” period of Scottish hilt making in the middle of the 18th century.
The cone shaped pommel has a cut groove extending around its circumference just below its equator into which the ends of the guard arms are tucked to secure the hilt. The pommel is decorated with crescents of filed grooves flanked with narrower incised lines which radiate from the pommel top upon which a waisted pommel button is mounted. The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen and bound with flattened silver wire strip.
The single edged tapering blade is 31.5 inches long (80 cm). Underneath the blunt back edge a bold fuller extends from the hilt to terminate some 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) from the blade tip after which the blade is double edged. Beneath this first fuller a second extends from the end of a short ricasso to terminate a short distance from the tip.