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An Aristocratic French Silver Hilted Small Sword with Exquisitely Engraved Hunting Scenes circa 1720 to 1750

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Price: £2,450

Ref: 054.23

Item Description

A very fine quality French silver hilted small sword dating to the decades before the French Revolution. The hilt is beautifully chiselled, engraved and embellished with hunting scenes.  It is a nicely balanced example mounted with a double shell guard hilt and a flattened hexagonal section blade. The wear to the hilt is very light ensuring that the engraved designs are crisp and clear.

The most catching part of the hilt is the convex double shell guard with its reinforced raised edges.  In the middle of these shells, on each of the four sides, are exquisite hunting scenes framed within Rococo borders of intertwined floral and scallop-like designs.  The convex side of one shell shows in intricate detail the moment when two hunting dogs have cornered and attack a wild boar. The opposite convex shell shows two hunting dogs bringing down a large Red Deer stag. The inside concave shells are equally well executed. One side shows a hunting dog amongst trees flushing a game bird whilst the other shows a dog in woodland chasing a rabbit or hare. The depictions of these animals are three dimensional and possess movement and life. The engraving was certainly carried out by a master engraver that had studied nature.

The other parts of the hilt are equally well engraved. Each side of the ricasso depicts a hunting dog standing at rest beneath tress which judging by the upwardly curled tail may be a hunting poodle. The rear quillon is engraved with Rococo shells as is the knuckle bow on each side with a flying game bird in the middle. The pommel is as extravagant as the shell guards with a depiction of two dogs bringing down a hind and two dogs attacking a wolf on the other in woodland. Remnants of original gilt finish can be discerned in places on the hilt.

The blade is of high quality and of complex manufacture. It has a short ricasso and tapers to its tip. It is of flattened hexagonal section and triple fullered from after a quarter of its length to the tip. The space between the ricasso and the commencement of the fullers is decorated with engraved Rococo scrolls and panels. The baluster shaped wooden grip is bound with contra-twisted pairs of roped silver wire separated by thinner lengths between. Silver woven “Turks’ Heads” mounted top and bottom complete the appearance of this attractive grip.  One of the boldly formed pas d’ ane rings contains the stamps of the maker on one side.

The maker of this sword was certainly a skilled silversmith but his mark on the hilt is not identified. Hunting in France at this time was the pursuit of the nobility and the owner was almost certainly a landed aristocrat of pre-Revolutionary France. Silver hilted small swords were fashionable attire for 18th century gentlemen. Although mostly worn for effect a gentleman carrying such a sword was also announcing to society that he was capable of defending himself with it and was trained to do so. The stylish and delicate appearance of these swords was an expression of confidence, social standing and competence in their use as formidable duelling weapons. Duelling in France was still frequent in France at this time.

There are no losses or repairs to the hilt which has maintained its original pleasing outline and is in fine condition. The engraving on the blade near the hilt is worn in places and the blade is lightly stained with blemishes of blackened age along its length, and a patch of light pitting at the point, but otherwise is in good condition and of original length. The blade is 31.25 inches (79.5 cm) long and overall the sword is just over 37.5 inches (95.5 cm)

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