Fauchard of the Bodyguard of Cardinal Scipione Borghese-Caffarelli (1576–1633)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 371

The blade on this fauchard is very similar to another staff weapon in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. no. 14.25.273), but this example is without the pierced rosettes. Except for the tip and the cutting edge, the blade is decorated similarly on both sides with a series of medallions and ornamental strapwork cartouches outlined in silver-encrusted dots and set against a blued background finely damascened with gold scrolls. The ornament within the medallions and cartouches is chiseled and gilt on a punched background and includes, from top to bottom, a grotesque, the papal tiara and crossed keys of Saint Peter, three palm branches projecting through a crown, a basilisk, the Borghese arms (a dragon displayed, on a chief an eagle displayed) surmounted by an archbishop's hat with ten tassels, an eagle, and a grotesque. The side straps and their rivets are decorated with punched and gilt ornament to match the blade and its socket. A tassel of silver-colored thread is mounted at the base of the socket. The octagonal wooden shaft is covered with red velvet and studded with copper rivets, and terminates in a sharp iron point.

This example, one of two bearing the Borghese arms in the Metropolitan Museum, is surely one of the most elaborate and beautiful staff weapons ever produced, and combines all known techniques of metal decoration: bluing, gilding, engraving, and damascening, as well as encrustation with gold and silver. The owner of these staff weapons has traditionally been identified as Camillo Borghese (1552–1621), who became a cardinal in 1596 and who was elected to the papacy (as Paul V) in 1605. More recently, however, Boccia and Coelho have suggested that the owner may have been Cardinal Scipione Borghese-Caffarelli, a nephew of Paul V who was adopted into the Borghese family. Thirteen of these staff weapons remained in the Villa Borghese in Rome until 1892–93, when its contents were dispersed. A backplate for a child's armor decorated in the same technique and with the same motifs, which surely comes from the same workshop as these fauchards, is in the Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fauchard of the Bodyguard of Cardinal Scipione Borghese-Caffarelli (1576–1633), Steel, copper, gold, silver, wood, textile, Italian

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