Apr 1, 2020

Small Sword

Small Sword


Steel, wood, steel wire, copper, chiseled shell guard; blade: blued, gilded, pierced and engraved

Overall: 104.5 cm (41 1/8 in.); Blade: 86 cm (33 7/8 in.); Guard: 7.6 cm (3 in.)

Weight: 600 g (1.32 lbs.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Severance 1916.1099

Did you know?

This small sword has a veritable panoply of animal imagery. Men ride horses across the crossguard, the horizontal element closest to the blade, and around the pommel, the globular tip of the handle. Mythical animals feature prominently on the guard, the semi-circular piece that covered the knuckles.


During the 1700s, the small-sword emerged as a light, quick weapon. Like the rapier it was carried by unarmored civilians, the noblemen of the upper classes. Over time this delicate sword became more an accessory of male attire than a weapon essential to life and death. The sword hilt, which shows even when the blade is sheathed, became the ground for elaborate decoration. These small-swords thus represent the final stage in the evolution of the sword, from the edged weapons of antiquity to the elegantly refined blades of the 1700s and 1800s.

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