Arms and Armor, Bashford dean, Court Swords, Hunting Swords, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smallswords
A copy of Bashford Dean’s Catalogue of European Court Swords and Hunting Swords including the Ellis, De Dingo, Riggs and Reubell collections, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929 would probably cost you more than $500, if you could find a copy for sale. This web-site offers a complete scan of the entire catalogue.
It is fair to say that court swords, which came into vogue during the second half of the seventeenth century, were of extraordinary merit as objects of art. They were beautiful in lines, rich and varied in ornament, designed by distinguished painters, engravers, and medallists; they furnished even a brilliant point of interest in the court circle of baroque times – giving the final touch to the personal equipment of the courtiers of the Louis in France, of the pretentious nobles who thronged Italian palaces, of the ceremonious magnates of Germany and Poland, or of the wealthy lords and commoners of England. In fact, there can be no question that as an object of personal adornment a sword of the richest type occupied a high place in the minds of many personages of those days; we have only to examine their state portraits to be convinced that this “side-arm was receiving great attention as an object of beauty. We may even infer that many a seigneur who sat for his portrait was as keenly interested in recording for posterity the details of his sword hilt as the features of his face. …
Hunting, which formed no small part of the social life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, developed Ã©pÃ©es 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’Ã¢ne, 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.