Saturday, January 26, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Small Jeweled Court Sword and Sheath, 1757

Not intended to slice the ears off of enemies, this sword was designed in England in 1757 for wear as a court or dress accessory. The hilt of this small ceremonial sword is silver gilt and set with table-cut and rose-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds in a foliate pattern.

From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared. These were created for use in the court as part of a dress uniform, and also were made in response to new fencing techniques. Such weapons were worn with both civilian clothes as well as dress uniforms as “small swords” to denote status.

These were considered items of male jewelry. By the time this sword was made, elaborate swords with gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enameling, were actually being produced by jewelers as opposed to weapon-masters. Very often these were presented by a monarch for distinguished military and naval service.

This sword has long been believed to have been owned by Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham (1726-1813). Middleton’s long career included service in the Seven Years' War (1756-63) and acting as First Lord of the Admiralty during the Trafalgar Campaign (1805).

English, 1757
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

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