Smallsword with scabbard, hallmarked for 1773–74
Master GG (active Paris, ca. 1744)
Gold, steel, wood, fish skin; L. 38 5/8 in. (98.1 cm)
Purchase, Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange and Annie Laurie Aitken Trust Gift, 1998 (1998.35a,b)
Smallswords, like snuffboxes, were an essential element of male costume in the eighteenth century, and their hilts were appreciated as masculine jewelry. This weapon is a particularly fine Parisian example that combines elements of the older Rococo and the more modern Neoclassical ornamental vocabularies. The hilt and scabbard mounts of this example are cast entirely of yellow and green gold and are modeled with figures of the classical deities Mars, Minerva, Jupiter, and Hercules and with personifications of Justice and Prudence. This smallsword represents the final and most refined stage in the development of civilian swords, shortly before they ceased to be worn in Western Europe as a regular part of a gentleman's wardrobe.