The french description for this sword is “Epee à pommeau à méplat recevant l’arc de jointure termine par un feuille d’acanthe”, or a sword with a flat-faced pommel with the joining arc terminated by an acanthus leaf.
It was very likely for an Officier Superieur, most likely a *Major* or a *Colonel de L’état-major de la Grande Armée* – a colonel of the Army General Staff, who served under the direction of *L’état-major général de la Grande Armée, et Maréchal d’Empire*, Louis-Alexandre Berthier (Chief of staff of the Grand Army of France, and Marshal of France). In 1813 Marshal Berthier rejoined Napoleon as chief of staff (having served as chief of staff to Marshal Murat during the 1812 campaigning season) and served in this capacity throughout the campaign in Germany.
This particular wing of the army was responsible for Movements, Secretariat, Accounting and Intelligence of the French Grande Armée.
This design was used from 1814-1815 in this particular form. The hilt is gilt bronze, with mother of pearl handle scales with only two small chips.
The blade is also of an unusual form, for a French sword. It is a Spadroon, rather than a smallsword.
Most French officers swords with a hilt like this feature a hollow ground triangular section blade, like an earlier smallsword or courtsword.
This has a narrow, single edged, fullered blade known as a spadroon blade. In 1796, the British Army standardised on the 1796 pattern infantry officers sword, a spadroon with a very similar blade to this one (however slightly different). This was widely regarded as a poor design, known as “the perfect encumbrance”
The spadroon blade on this particular example is also unique in that is transitions to a “lozenge” () cross section for the distal half of the blade. It is fairly flexible, and also possesses almost no cutting capacity.
This sword has a few unique elements that allow it to be very accurately dated.
The pommel is in the form of a flattened acanthus, a symbol of enduring life and persistence. Also, on the guard there are two small flowers, situated near the top of the guard continuing this floral motif.
The knucklebow features a lion face. Though Napoleon settled on the Eagle for his official crest, the lion remained a popular symbol of strength in France even during the First Empire. The quillion is also in the form of a lions head.
The guard allows for the most accurate dating, and is highly specific in its imagery.
The use of a *Winged Victory* as the salient image is typical of late Napoleonic symbolism, though the Winged Victory is originally an ancient Greek design, classicism was very popular at the time and many archaic symbols found themselves being reused.
In the hand of the Winged Victory is a *laurel wreath*, a symbol of victory and honour, also of ancient Greek origins.
The Winged Victory stands before a background of flagpoles, one of which flies a battle standard (on the lefthand side, with the fringed border).
The use of the *fasces* or a bound bundle of birch rods is also typical of the First Empire, though the symbol itself dates back to Etruscan and then later Roman times and was merely revived by the classicist Imperials.
There is some deposition of white oxides on the bronze, and some photos are before cleaning, others after. This is due to exposure to chlorides (salt) at some point.
96cm overall, 82cm blade, 416 grams.