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Hunting, which formed no small part of the social life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, developed épées de chasse, couteaux, and coutelas, which were in keeping with the rich hunting costume and with the dress sword. They were short, carried from a hunting belt, and while they were often provided with guard, quillons, and knuckle guard, they never had the pas d'âne, since this was a structure belonging only to fencing (see fig. 7, which indicates types A and B). In a word, they represent decadent swords, small enough to be conveniently carried in the forest, to be used on very rare occasions to defend the wearer (very ineffectively) from enraged boar or stag, daintily to bleed the game, but never to function in butchery. The art of chopping up the animal - maitrise de veneur of the preceding century, of the days of Maximilian, Charles V, Henry VIII, Francis I - now belonged only to the court butcher and his attendants. Hunting knives (1) stand therefore on another line of descent; they developed from knives, becoming heavier, broader, more specialized. Hunting swords, on the other hand, are degenerate court swords, which by loss of structures attain nearly the condition of glorified knives. Hence it follows that the older hunting swords resemble more closely the short-sword of the period; while the later hunting swords are knife-like. But even here, where the blade becomes single-edged, it is still slender, pointed at tip, and its hilt ever bears the quillons of a sword; its scabbard as well is that of a sword with similar mounts. In style and ornament it still retains close kinship with the court sword - which was apt to replace it so soon as the owner changed his costume.
(1) Bashford Dean. The Metropolitan Museum 0f Art. Catalogue 0f European Daggers. New York, 1929, p. 183 and fig. 1.
1. HUNTING SWORD Italian, 1660
Hilt of type A-B, of rich quality. In addition to guard ring and knuckle guard there are an anterior and two posterior quillons, one of the latter drooping. Metal parts of hilt are brass with facings of stag-horn and silver, the latter chased with floral scrolls against hatched background. Extremity of knuckle guard silver-faced and carved as dog's head. Stag-horn grip with four large rounded nail-heads in silver on right side.
Blade ungrooved; panels at base decorated with etched foliate ornaments, star, scrolls, and animals (right, leaping wild boar; left, leaping stag) against hatched and gilded background. Above panels a small etched ornament gilded in lines.
Scabbard of brown leather over wood; originally intended to hold three small implements; ferrule missing and method of suspension not indicated. Chape of plain silvered metal with vandyke edge.
14.25.975 L. 63 (50) Wt. 680
2. HUNTING SWORD German, 1665
Type B. Hilt stag-horn and steel russeted. On right side ring guard filled with cut steel plate embossed and carved with palmette scrolls. Flat knuckle guard and single drooping quillon, both faced with stag-horn. Upper grip stag-horn with large rounded steel nail-heads.
Blade with single shallow groove; on each side partially effaced engraving of turbaned figure and arabesques with bird; also inscriptions: A. R., ANNO 1665, GLORIA SOLI DEO.
14.25.976 L. 85 (70.5) Wt. 970.5
3. HUNTING SWORD AND TROUSSE German, 1678
Type D. Hilt of silver. Ricasso chased with rococo scrolls. Straight quillons terminating as dogs' heads with muzzles opposed, the rear quillon somewhat longer and more elaborately carved than the forward and bearing hail marks on the right near ricasso. Grip of stag-horn with silver bolster and cap chased in parallel bands, the latter with hail mark as on quillons.
Blade spatulate, entirely covered with etching of calendar: January to June, right; July to December, left. This calendar includes for each month: sign of the zodiac, position of sun (astrological), number of days in month, length of day and night, and time of sunrise and sunset at solstice, equinox, or another fixed time; for each day: moon's date, day letter, and patron saint. Below calendar at base of blade, on each side, table of movable feasts, 1678-1700. On right, below zodiacal signs for March and June, signature JOH. ADAM ELINGER (?) L (or C).
Scabbard of russet leather; hook suspension; ferrule and chape of embossed silver. Ferrule, front (above), running stag, boar pursued by hounds; back, rococo scrolls. Hall marks. Chape, front, scrolls, square and lozenge-shaped stamp, apparently without lettering; back, horizontal bands. Scabbard encloses knife and fork en suite; handles with large faceted silver nail-heads and silver caps, each with hail mark as on sword.
14.25.972 L. 62.5 (48) Wt. 711
Plate LXXXVII Riggs Benefaction
Blade straight, single-edged; back-edged for one-third distance; behind that single narrow groove; at base traces of etched hunting scene and inscription.
Scabbard of yellow-brown (originally red) plush with fittings of silvered metal and ivory. Ferrule of plain silvered metal. Near top is pocket containing knife and fork with ivory handles carved in the round as putti. At top of pocket another ferrule with large ivory plaque carved in high relief with putti playing with dolphins. At middle of scabbard another plaque on metal base, showing hounds attacking boar. In lower scabbard pocket with plain metal ferrule is double-edged skewer whose ivory handle represents putti wrestling.
14.25.1149 L. 82 (64.5) Wt. 597
Provenance: Magniac Collection (London, Christie's, 1892, No. 1013).
Plate LXXXVIII Riggs Benefaction