Sword Pommel

probably French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373

This pommel is one of the best examples of a distinct group of sword and dagger pommels dating from the time of the Crusades, most of which have been found in the area of the Middle East that was known to Europeans during the Middle Ages as the Holy Land. The unidentified heraldic shield on the back of the pommel was probably the insignia of its original owner or the noble family he served. The striding lion on the front also appears on other pommels from this group, including one that formerly belonged to Dr. Bashford Dean, the founding curator of the Department of Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. no. 29.158.685).

The pommel is made of cast bronze in the form of a disk with twelve scallops or lobes around its perimeter and is decorated with enamel. The obverse has the heraldic figure of a lion passant guardant azure (lion walking to the viewer's left and looking full-face to the viewer, colored blue) and on the reverse there is a heraldic shield impaled (divided vertically in two halves) with a lion rampant contourné, possibly guardant (a lion standing vertically on its hind legs facing to the viewer's right and possibly looking full-face to the viewer) on the dexter (viewer's left half of the shield) and five bendlets azure (small diagonal blue bands alternating with bands of an indeterminate heraldic color) on the sinister (viewer's right half of the shield). The heraldic designs on both sides appear on a background consisting of a leafy scroll pattern within a circular frame. Each of the scallops around the perimeter is decorated with a simple trefoil motif. There are traces of blue-green champlevé enamel in the recessed areas of the lion on the obverse, between the diagonal bands of the shield on the reverse, and on both sides around the central circular compartments and the lobes. The raised areas and the edges have a rubbed brownish-green bronze patina. The pommel is hollow, but cast with thick walls, with a rectangular opening at the bottom and a circular hole at the top to accommodate the tang of a sword blade.

Sword Pommel, Copper alloy, enamel, probably French

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