Sword

1781 (made)

Morisset, James

Length: 105 cm, Width: 10 cm, Depth: 7.3 cm [Sword] Length: 83 cm blade, Length: 17 cm hilt

M.39:1 to 3-1960 MET

Presentation small sword and scabbard with gold and enamelled hilt and mounts, by James Morriset, London, 1781-2

Presentation small sword with sheath and case. The gold hilt is enriched with transluscent enamels by James Morisset of London, the shell guard is inscribed 'Presented to Lt. Colonel James Hartley in testimony of his brave & gallant conduct by the Honble East India Company 1779'. The decoration on the hilt includes the arms of Lt. Col. Hartley and of the East India Company [Case] Red leather case for a presentation small sword

From around 1640, light swords with short, flexible, pointed blades appeared in response to new fencing techniques that emphasised thrusting at speed. They were worn increasingly with civilian clothes as ‘small swords’, offering a means of self-defence but largely denoting status for the well-dressed gentleman. Small swords were items of male jewellery. By the 1750s, their elaborate gold and silver hilts, mounted with precious stones and fine enamelling, were the products of the goldsmith and jeweller rather than the swordsmith. They made fitting rewards for distinguished military and naval service. With their blades tucked away inside scabbards, it was their ostentatious and expensive hilts that carried their thrust. This sword is decorated with the arms of James Hartley (1745-99) and the arms of The East India Company and is inscribed: 'Presented to Lt. Colonel James Hartley in Testimony of his brave & gallant Conduct by The Honble East India Company 1779' James Hartley received this sword after saving the British army from destruction in India during the Mahratta Wars. The sword cost £105 and James Morisset, one of London's most celebrated makers of enamelled gold dress-swords and boxes, was commissioned to produce it. Morisset's swords were influential. With its urn-shaped pommel, this is one of the first to be produced in the Robert Adam style.

This sword is decorated with the arms of James Hartley (1745-99) and the arms of The East India Company and is inscribed: 'Presented to Lt. Colonel James Hartley in Testimony of his brave & gallant Conduct by The Honble East India Company 1779'. From the Carrington-Pierce Collection. Historical significance: Presented to Lieutenant Colonel James Hartley by the Honourable East India Company for saving the army from annihilation during the First Maratha War (1775-82). [Sword] ex Carrington-Pierce Collection

Location: Jewellery, room 91 mezzanine, case 80, shelf 5

View this object on the V&A website