Peter Finer

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An English Yeomanry Cavalry Officer’s Presentation Quality Sabre and Scabbard, c. 1800-1805

Item Ref: 2559 Price on application

2559 2
2559 0289m

England, unidentified London workshop in the manner of Prosser. Gilt-brass, gold, ivory, steel, gilt-thread, gilt wire.


Private collection, United Kingdom

This sword perfectly displays all the dash and flamboyance captured in the portraiture of officers of the English Yeomanry Cavalry within the later Georgian period. In so doing, this sword illustrates equally well the melding of both neo-classical and 18th century decorative themes which characterised the presentation swords supplied by the most fashionable London sword cutlers of the day. 

The absence of any cutlers’ signature in this instance is not unusual, despite the high quality of the design and workmanship. Notably however, the hilt and scabbard include features directly influenced by the works of prominent London cutlers and sword makers. The pair of Roman fasces which form the quillons, the very distinctive fan-like langets or écussons beneath them, together with the matching fluted bands which carry the rings suspending the scabbard are, for example, all found constructed with striking similarity on a presentation sword by the royal sword cutler John Prosser. This sword was presented to Captain Abbott by the Attorneys Volunteer Cavalry (Dublin), circa 1796-98. Another comparable use of Roman fasces and the other smaller neo-classical trophies used to great effect in this period is found on a sword made by Henry Tatham in 1799, specifically for the H.R.H. Prince Regent and subsequently given by him to Lord Yarmouth; this superbly tasteful sword is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Reg. No. M.26-1952).

Other than these two distinctive examples and the further known neo-classical works by the celebrated royal sword cutlers John Prosser (1) and Henry Tatham, without contradiction the most recognisable Georgian neo-classical hilts to include the fasces motif (the principal emblem of power and rank) comes in the form of those swords of variously £100, £50 and £30 value made for presentation by the Patriotic Fund inaugurated by Lloyd’s in 1803. In the following year the Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund commissioned Richard Teed to make the swords, who is recorded as a Jeweller and Swordmaker of 3 Lancaster Court, off the Strand, Westminster (active in London 1784-1816). In addition to the motifs present on Teed’s Lloyds hilts which have common ground with the hilt of the present sword, the scabbards of his £100 and £50 swords include an oval plaque of Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion and another of him slaying the Lernaean Hydra: plaques identical to these are inset respectively on each side of the present sword hilt. Despite the further instance of plaques of this same design existing on another presentation sword of the period (unsigned also, for an infantry officer), it seems improbable that the present unidentified maker would have obtained these plaques as commonly traded workshop stock, and this must give strength to the suggestion that the maker of the present sword will have had some degree of working relationship with Richard Teed. 

The hilt of gilt-brass cast in relief with an elaborate melding of both 18th century themes and neo-classical ornament, in part upon a contrasting stippled ground. Comprising a pair of horizontal quillons formed as a Roman fasces with acorn terminals. The quillons issuant from a central rectangular block, filled on each face with a panel of trophies-of-war and with a fluted fan-like triangular langet or écusson at its base. The pommel and the backstrap of the grip cast in one piece, the pommel flattened over its top and sides and projecting to a forward-pointing cylindrical finial, the latter voided for threading the sword-knot. The pommel decorated with a series of martial trophies and with a helmet plaque of neo-classical design fitted to cover the apex of the blade tang. The backstrap decorated over its length with an elaborate trophy after the classical roman fashion, involving fasces, weapons, a standard and a wreath of Victory. Fitted with ivory grip retained by pairs of rivets capped by gilt rosettes, decorated throughout with an inlaid design of gold piqué laurel and oak branches, and each face inset with a gilt-brass oval plaque cast in low relief with a scene from the Labours of Hercules, respectively Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion and the slaying of the Hydra. 

Mounted with a curved fullered blade of burnished steel, the greater portion richly decorated on both sides with a series of etched designs arranged within three brightly blued panels, and with smaller panels of white steel between. The blued panels etched and fire-gilt with scrolling foliage, involving on one side the figure of Fame (and Victory), a trophy-of-arms on the reverse side, and the white steel panels etched with burnished designs of trophies, scrollwork and foliage contrasting against an etched matted ground. The blade preserved in extremely fine condition, retaining almost all of its original polish.

In its original scabbard formed entirely of gilt-brass, the rear half decorated over its outer face with a pattern of brightly gilded acanthus leaf ornament heightened within matted gilt panels and enclosing a pair of fluted bands carrying rings for suspension. The forward portion decorated with contrasting matted acanthus on a bright ground. Complete with its original sword-knot formed of a gilt-lace strap decorated with a rose pattern, and the stalk and knot of crimson and gilt thread. The sword in extremely fine untouched condition throughout.

Size: Length 91.5 cm / 36 in, Blade 74 cm / 29.1 in