Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Highland Officer's Back Sword of Pinch of Snuff form dating to the Mid 18th century Ref: 46.13



Price: £5,950

Item Description:


A Scottish Officers' back sword of "Pinch of Snuff" form dating to the middle of the 18th century. The sword is in good condition with some light pitting to the hilt commensurate with its age.


The attractive and delicate construction of the basket identifies this sword as a member of a rare and distinctive group of mid 18th century Scottish military officers' swords. The complex design is similar to three others depicted in contemporary portraits. The first is a painting dating to 1757 to 1763 called "The Pinch of Snuff" by William Delacour, after which the sword type gained its name, and shows an officer in a Highland Regiment, probably on service in the Americas, with the sword tucked under his arm whilst he pauses to take a pinch of snuff. The painting is illustrated in "History of Highland Dress", John Telfer Dunbar, Oliver & Boyd 1962, Plate 47.


The second shows Colonel William Gordon of Fyvie, in the uniform of the Queens Own Royal Regiment of Highlanders, painted in Rome by Pompeo Batoni in 1766, and illustrated in "The Clans of Scotland", Micheil MacDonald, Brian Trodd Publishing, 1991, Page 108. The third is a painting of an officer in Highland military uniform auctioned by Christies in 1968 ("Pictures of Scottish Interest", Glasgow, 2nd April 1969, lot 1).


The hilt type appears to have been manufactured with two styles of frontal guard loop. One form being a plate fashioned into loops, pierced with a heart and secured to the front of the hilt by three screws as in the manner of our sword hilt and that featured in the Christies Glasgow portrait commented on above. In the second form the loops are integral to the hilt as in a sword illustrated in "Scottish Swords and Dirks", John Wallace, Arms and Armour Press, 1970, fig 44 and also as illustrated in the Batoni portrait. Some of these swords were manufactured with wristguards and some with a horseman's oval ring.


The hilt retains its buff leather liner with red velvet exterior finished at the hem with a silk border now with parts missing. The wooden grip is covered with shagreen.The pommel has an integral button and sits comfortably in a ring forged around the top of the basket.


The 18th century backsword blade is of fine quality with a pronounced fuller extending from the hilt underneath the spine to half way down the blade after which it becomes double edged. Beneath this a shallower fuller extends down the middle of the blade from the hilt almost to the tip.

The blade is 33.5 inches long (85 cm). Overall the sword is 39.5 inches long (100 cm)


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