A ceremonial sabre




Germany (Saxony)


Early 17th century


Forging, casting, chasing, gilding, gem-setting


Steel, copper, corals


Overall length 905 mm; blade length 752 mm

The curved single-edged blade is made of watered steel with a ricasso, a yelman and numerous fullers of various lengths and widths. One narrow fuller stretches along the back in the upper part of the blade, and a shorter narrow fuller is located on the ricasso. In the middle, narrower part of the blade, between the back and the long central fuller, there are four groups of three short narrow fullers. Another one U-shaped narrow fuller bends around the central fuller from the side of the hilt. The gilt-copper hilt consists of a grip and guard that are densely set with elongated coral cabochons in raised bezel mounts. The guard is formed by a cross-guard with long quillons bent in opposite directions. The front quillon covers the hand almost completely, and the rear quillon is curved towards the blade. The pommel is made in the form of a lion's head with an open mouth, coral eyes and tongue, and the quillon ends are formed as lion paws with coral claws. The rounded dentate rain-guard is fixedly attached to the cross-guard on the right side. No scabbard.

COMMENT. The presented item is a unusual ceremonial German sabre with a zoomorphic hilt and an oriental blade made of watered steel, which was still very rare in the early 17th century Western Europe. The morphology, design features and material of the blade indicate its Indian origin. The use of an oriental blade with a whimsical surface pattern was presumably intended to add a heightened sense of mysterious exotic to the arresting imagery created by the unusual design and color of the hilt. The sabre may have been mounted by Bavarian armourers in Nuremberg or Augsburg. The contrast of red corals and gilding was was employed in the decorative treatment of a variety of luxury silver and base-metal wares that were produced in Bavaria and Bohemia from the late 16th to the late 17th century. Notable among these were items made for the Saxon Electors and the nobility of the Dresden Court. The State Art Collections of Dresden (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) holds a series of sabres, broadswords and small swords all with sculpted zoomorphic hilts made since the late 16th century for the electors Christian I (ruled 1586-91), Christian II (ruled 1591-1611), Johann George I (ruled 1611-56), and Johann George II (ruled 1658-80). These fantasy weapons share with the presented sabre the lavish and barely restrained use of semi-precious materials in their construction (see Haenel, E. Kostbare Waffen aus der Dresdner Rüstkammer. – Leipzig, 1923. – Tafels 53, 61-63). Another one striking example is the sabre with an oriental blade forming a part of the "Turkish" garniture made in about 1585 for Charles-Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy (ruled 1580-1630), and presented in 1603 to King Philippe III of Spain (ruled 1578-1621). It is now in the Royal Armoury (Real Armeria) in Madrid (see Godoy, J.-A., Leydi, S. Parures Triomphales. Le Maniérisme dans l'Art de l'Armure Italienne: Exhibition Catalogue. – Genève, 2003. – P. 360, pl. 87). The presented sabre is of great historical and cultural value as an extraordinary in design and a well-preserved example of the 17th century West European long-bladed edged weapons, which was produced for a noble person.

LITERATURE: Pierre Bergé et Associés & Hermann Historica: "Le Musée Fantastique" de Karsten Klingbeil Armes et Armures Anciennes, Mardi 11 décembre 2011. – Bruxelles, 2011. – Lot 199.