Smallsword with Scabbard

ca. 1785
French, Paris
Steel, gold, wood, fish skin
L. with scabbard 38 3/4 in. (98.4 cm); L. without scabbard 37 13/16 in. (96 cm); L. of blade 31 3/8 in. (79.7 cm); W. 4 5/16 in. (11 cm); D. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm); Wt. 12 oz. (340 g); Wt. of scabbard 2 oz. (56.7 g)
Credit Line:
Gift of Jean Jacques Reubell, in memory of his mother, Julia C. Coster, and of his wife, Adeline E. Post, both of New York City, 1926
Accession Number:
34.57.13a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 376
By the early seventeenth century, the rapier, a long slender thrusting sword, began to dominate as the gentleman’s weapon of choice. During the course of the century, however, as civilian fencing techniques became more specialized and refined, the rapier developed into a lighter, trimmed-down weapon known by about 1700 as the smallsword. Smallswords, often richly decorated, remained an integral part of a gentleman’s wardrobe until the wearing of swords in civilian settings went out of fashion at the end of the eighteenth century, at which time pistols were replacing swords as arms most frequently used in personal duels. The majority of smallsword hilts are made of silver or steel, but many also employ a wide variety of luxurious materials, such as gold, porcelain, and enamel. At their best, smallswords combine the crafts of swordsmith, cutler, and jeweler to create an elegant weapon that was also a wearable work of art.
Inscription: Inscribed on both sides of the blade: Palle Mr Fourbisseur Place Des Trois Maries Près le Pont néuve à Paris; on the locket of the scabbard: Palle Fourbisseur de Monsieur Frere du Roy Paris.
Grancsay, Stephen V. "The Jean Jacques Reubell Bequest." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MMA Bulletin, 29, no. 7 vol. XXIV, pp. 116–117, fig. 3, ill.

Norman, A. V. B. The Rapier and Small-Sword, 1460–1820. London: Arms and Armour Press, 1980. pl. 141, ill.