Karl Alexander Wilke. Vision.
Presentation Sabre with Scabbard
- Dated: 1846
- Maker: unknown
- Place of Origin: Austria
- Medium: steel, wood, turquoises, silver and gold, embossed, engraved and etched
- Measurements: overall length: 93.5 cm. Weight: 0.76 kg, without scabbard
- Hallmark: Vienna’s mark and the year of 1846
This exotic silver-mounted sabre belonged to Anatole Demidoff, Prince of San Donato in Florence. It is depicted in an (unfinished) equestrian portrait of him by Karl Briullov (1799-1852), begun in 1828, and now in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Although seemingly entirely made of silver in Bruillov’s portrait, it appears to have been at least partly-gilded; traces of the precious metal still in fact remain, but most has vanished, perhaps due to over-cleaning during its “working” lifetime.
Despite its singularly Ottoman style, the hilt of the sword bears an (unidentified) Austrian silversmith’s mark and all the mounts are struck with the standard Austrian mark for silver, indicating that it is almost certainly of Austrian manufacture. Swords in “Eastern” style were particularly fashionable throughout Europe at this time, being especially sought-after by dashing young cavalry officers and noblemen.
Illustration by John D, Batten
for Celtic Fairy Tales collected by Joseph Jacobs
Not only is this stunning citole the only surviving piece of it’s kind from the XIV century, it was also played by Robert Dudley to Elizabeth I.
A citole is the medieval equivalent of a guitar. This example is both a unique survival of its type and an outstanding example of medieval secular art. It was highly prized in its day and highly regarded throughout its history.
Alterations have been made, including attempts to convert it to a violin. Among the changes is the insertion of a silver plate above the peg box, engraved with the arms of Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1558-1603) and her favourite and lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. One of the most likely uses for the citole in medieval times would be as accompaniment to love ballads. The amorous associations clearly persisted into the Elizabethan age.