This exquisitely worked sword hilt was created for Gaston de Béarn, prince of Viana (1840–1893), who had a personal devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. The Virgin Mary, surmounted by a crown of lilies, forms the grip and pommel. The guard has a dynamic composition composed of the Archangel Michael, symbol of Christianity and leader of the armies of heaven, vanquishing Satan, here a writhing dragon with a human face. The sword’s evocative sacred imagery is almost without parallel in the context of late nineteenth-century weapons.
The hilt was designed and modeled by the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and was executed by the goldsmith-jeweler Lucien Falize. It is a rare collaboration between two leading artists in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century.