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Old 9th November 2021, 09:11 PM   #1
fernando
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Default A silver hilted small sword for comments.

Not only the hilt but also the scabbard with silver mounts. It looks like some of the motivs in the hilt depict zoomorfic figures. Pity that the scabbard was broken. I realized that gluing the two parts wouldn't work so, i had the local silver smith to fix it with a silver band.
I am so far relying on the assumption that, the guard having the double headed eagle, should be the coat of arms of the Habsburgs. Could this be a fact ? And its age; could the blade be earlier than the hilt ? Why would it be full of those 'concavities' ? Would this be a (usual) fashion of a determined blade smith ... German ?
I would so much appreciate your thoughts on this one, Gentlemen !


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Old 9th November 2021, 10:06 PM   #2
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To my novice eyes the style appears Italian, Florentine with a touch of Negroli look...

And the double eagle could equally be Russian imperial.

Quite a lovely puzzle you have!
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Old 10th November 2021, 07:31 AM   #3
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These two fotos show that this actually could not be a Russian eagle: The Russian eagle holds an orb and a sceptre and the heads of the eagle are mostly crowned.
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Old 10th November 2021, 08:00 AM   #4
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What a beautiful smallsword, congratulations!
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Old 10th November 2021, 10:04 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by corrado26 View Post
These two fotos show that this actually could not be a Russian eagle: The Russian eagle holds an orb and a sceptre and the heads of the eagle are mostly crowned.
Well, the Austrian imperial eagle also holds an orb in its left talons and the heads of the eagle are also mostly crowned (see photo below). So, in my opinion this is more of an artistic representation than an heraldic accurate one.

Therefore, I believe it can be any of the two imperial eagles, or more likely, none of them.
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Old 10th November 2021, 12:26 PM   #6
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Thank you Gentlemen for your impressions.
It appears that the double headed eagle holding the scepter and orb is the most seen and used. This one, on the contrary, has the eagle holding two swords. This could be artist's imagination but, why would he care to design the two swords so different from each other, both the cross guard and the blade profile; customer's demand, like the crest of some house family ? It is also noticeable that the crown on the eagles head looks a bit atypical ( a papal tiara ?); not to speak that this 'crest' is placed on the guard bottom and not on the top ... but this could be due to a better suitable place.
The problem is that, within such riddle, i am unable to guess where and when this sword comes from. Plus the reason for the unusual 'work' of the blade; one which i wonder whether it is older than the hilt; a family heirloom ?


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Last edited by fernando; 10th November 2021 at 02:55 PM.
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Old 11th November 2021, 12:02 AM   #7
Jim McDougall
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Guys, all excellent interpretations and suggestions, and I hope I may add mine after going through "Catalog of European Court and Hunting Swords" (Bashford Dean, 1928).

With the artistic range of these kinds of pretty exclusive sword hilts, it would be pretty much impossible to find an exact match to this one. The double headed eagle in the motif is tempting yet misleading. If we attempt to place it specifically in accord with the known heraldic arms of Russia, and Austria as noted, as it is not exact in its form with exceptions in its elements it is speculative only.

The features in the motif are very unique, and unlike most themes on other European court and dress swords. In the reference (Dean, pl.XXXIX,#50) there is a N.European (German) example which has similar baroque styling in the shell guard rather than the standard bilobate type, has a 'boat shell' like form which seems rather unusual in these hilts.
This one dates c. 1780.

In another example (Dean, pl.LIII, #70) there is a French example again elaborate baroque styling and the pas'd'ane is more 'squared' with similar type ribbing in these structural elements. This example from c. 1770 has associations with diplomatic circumstances and a secretary of state of Russia.
The period of this example in those may extend into early 19th c.

I would suggest that this example might fall into this type of category and these influences may have been added into the design. Possibly the deviation in the eagle might be simply artistic license? The royal connections in most of these countries and diplomatic channels seem to be a good explanation for hybridization and influenced styling. In any case. likely third quarter 18th c.
Possibly heraldic sources might offer more specific look at this unusual eagle design.
Oddly, there does appear to be use of the 'Byzantine' double head eagle in Masonic regalia, so this might be a variation of those.
Usually there is one sword held horizontally.

The hexagonal blade seems unusual as well, and it seems the 'concavities' feature with these ellipses in linear grouping is something I have seen on some European blades but in a floral type configuration.
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Old 11th November 2021, 06:06 AM   #8
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Thank you Jim for this very interesting information!

The two "Scandinavian (?)" examples in the photo appear very similar with Fernando's sword indeed.
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Old 11th November 2021, 01:25 PM   #9
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Thanks much Jim, for all that material. Indded i have previously browsed duble headed eagle crests in heraldy, masonry and religion (papal) but, so far, i found no clue.
It is naturaly admittable that this specfic design was artist's initiative, but what went trough his mind to draw something so similar to something else?.
On the other hand, we can see that every detail was skilfully care of. I wouldn't know the name of the technique but i notice that the motifs inside the guard shell are not the 'reverse' of the exterior beating (repoussť ?) but work done in purpose.
Also the seam stitching of the scabbard is done with the finest technique; looks almost microscopic.
Looking with more attention to the blade, the elliptical 'concavities' are each separated by two dots.
Concerning its hexagonal section, i would say this gives it a more weapon like look.
When you mention to have seen on some European blades the elipses in a floral type configuration, i can think of a motif engraved in a sword for a Portuguese high rank owner. But of course this has no connection with the sword in discussion.
Still no solid trace as to where this sword comes from; and whether the blade was the one original to to the hilt.


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Old 11th November 2021, 07:56 PM   #10
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Thanks guys!
These comparisons found in Dean (1928) offer some clues indeed, but as previously noted, these small sword hilts were artistic creations, often privately commissioned, so any sort of consistency or other like examples is most unlikely. What can be seen are general trends or favored styling in the motif.
The only small sword maker I am aware of having 'pattern books' would be the cut steel hilt patterns by Matthew Boulton in London latter 18th c.

What seems unique in the example in OP is the vertically gadrooned grip which seems almost 'feathered' as well of course as the most unusual double head eagle. While as noted earlier, these Byzantine style eagles were heraldic in the arms of Russia, Austria and several countries, but more specific use in individual heraldry seems elusive.
It does seem that Masonic heraldry does use these in variation for some of the degrees etc. but this version seems more stylized than copied.

Perhaps it might be a personal interpretation simply recalling one of these possibilities artistically, or possibly some fraternal group or order ?

The hexagonal blade, atypical for small swords as a rule, does seem more weapon like, recalling the 'dragoon' blades of 18th c.
The ellipses in that floral pattern are exactly the configuration I was thinking of.


Interestingly, the M1796 officers sword had pretty much this shape guard so it seems to have become popular 1770s-90s and been known across Europe. The small sword itself had become pretty much outdated in civilian terms and military officers dress swords followed a heavier version of the style in 1790s.
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Old 12th November 2021, 03:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Interestingly, the M1796 officers sword had pretty much this shape guard so it seems to have become popular 1770s-90s and been known across Europe. The small sword itself had become pretty much outdated in civilian terms and military officers dress swords followed a heavier version of the style in 1790s.
A. V. B. Norman dates the boatshell type of hilt to the 1720s and onwards. He referred to it as the Type 113 in his book, "The Rapier and Small-Sword 1460 - 1820"
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Old 12th November 2021, 04:38 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radboud View Post
A. V. B. Norman dates the boatshell type of hilt to the 1720s and onwards. He referred to it as the Type 113 in his book, "The Rapier and Small-Sword 1460 - 1820"
Thank you so much for the note on this! Norman's book is fantastic, and I overlooked checking it.
The thing about sword forms, structure and features is that they of course materialized over time, and became notable as they became popularized and more familiar. It is always intriguing to know the 'ancestry' of such things, and Mr. Norman was a master at such investigation.
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Old 12th November 2021, 05:04 PM   #13
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In both cases (M1796 + Norman) the guard indeed forms a 'broken' heart, but misses the pas d'ane. All in all, a different thing.
I follow Jim in that these these particular small swords are result of clients whims.
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Old 14th November 2021, 02:36 PM   #14
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Another reference on double eagles, which in Russia and Austria, etc were not always crowned: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-headed_eagle. Used in quite a few places most people would not think of.
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Old 14th November 2021, 02:58 PM   #15
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Thank you Wayne. This is one of the roads i have hit. Didn't help my case, though.
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Old 15th November 2021, 09:10 AM   #16
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Hello fernando, thanks for the pm.

you have a very beautiful smallsword rococo example from around 1770.
The paternoster on the blade is a Dutch sword blade characteristic from the 18th century.
Also, in some parts of the Netherlands, the double-headed eagle under a crown was common until the 19th century.

But in the Netherlands there was a flourishing export of weapons in the 18thC to many countries, including Russia.
The flower design on your hilt is also seen on some of the dutch high quality export firearms for the russian market.

My first impression is that this could be a dutch smallsword for the russian market.

Are there maybe (very small) marks somewhere on the silver parts that can give us more clarity?

best,

Last edited by cornelistromp; 15th November 2021 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 15th November 2021, 01:45 PM   #17
fernando
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Default Heel erg bedankt ...

Jasper, i am so much obliged for your comprehensive input, which i will save to my file supporting this sword category; a XVIII century Dutch smallsword for the Russian market; all details comprehended.
Since i brought this sword i have made several attempts to find some (silver) marks, without result. Today in a new attempt i dicerned some tiny 'spots' that could (could) be some mark punctions. There are no similar 'decoration' motifs in the opposite side, so i figure ...


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