Smallsword with Scabbard

Sword maker: Master GG (French, active Paris, ca. 1774)

Date: hallmarked 1773–74

Geography: Paris

Culture: French, Paris

Medium: Gold, steel, wood, fish skin

Dimensions: L. 38 5/8 in. (98.1 cm); Wt. 1 lb. 13 oz. (822.1 g)

Classification: Swords

Credit Line: Purchase, Annie Laurie Aitken Charitable Lead Trust Gift, and Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange, 1998

Accession Number: 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.