The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Partizan
  • Partizan
  • Probably Jean Berain I (1640 - 1711) , Designer
  • France
  • c. 1670 - 1700
  • Steel, gold, silk, wood, silver, copper alloy and velvet, chiselled, blued and damascened
  • Length: 240 cm
    Length: 53.3 cm, head
    Weight: 2.91 kg
  • Inscription: 'NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR' 'Equal to anything'
  • A1008
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Partizan, with a wavy, leaf-shaped blade, semi-circular at the base, where it projects in two crescent-shaped cusps or flukes, and a rounded ridge runs up the centre to the point. The tip of one fluke has been broken off. The surface is blued to within four inches of the point and overlaid with gold decoration. In the centre are two oval escutcheons bearing the arms of France and Navarre, surrounded by the collars of the Orders of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Esprit (incorporating the royal initial H) surmounted by a crown. Above this is, firstly a trophy of arms, secondly a sun in splendour, and finally at the top a scroll with the motto:

    NEC PLURIBUS IMPAR

    On the flukes are two trumpet-blowing figures of Fame among scrollwork.

    Octagonal socket chiselled round the neck with acanthus foliage, the rest of the surface blued and semé with gold fleurs-de-lys. At the bottom is fixed a transverse bar or toggle. Tassel of silk, originally white, with gold and silver braid, probably the original.

    Staff covered with modern green velvet studded with brass-headed nails. Bright steel ferrule, probably modern, ending in a moulded knob.

    French, about 1660-70.

    Provenance: Demidoff, San Donato, sold Paris, 5-8 April, 1870, lot 641, 1,900 fr.

    This is a partizan of the Gardes du Corps of Kings Louis XIV or XV. Compare the earlier example, A1005, on which the design is probably based. There are three similar partizans in the Royal Armouries (nos. VII, 231, 232, 1358) which may belong to the same set. Two others are in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, one is in the Armeria Reale at Turin (J 178) and another is in the Hermitage (cat. Lenz, E 295, Gille et Rockstuhl, pl. CXXXVIII, 2). Compare also one in an Italian collection sold at the Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 5-6 April, 1875, lot 47. There are four partizans in the Musée de l'Armée (nos. K 508-K 115) which resemble nos. A1005 and A1008 but are smaller and the decoration is less rich. They are there described as being of the time of Louis XVI and represent what was carried by the Garde du Corps at a later date, no. A1009 is a partizan carried by the Garde de la Manche of Louis XIV, a personal body-guard which corresponded somewhat to the Gentlemen-at-Arms or Scottish Archers of today. In addition the King of France had the Cents Suisses (see no. A973, and Musée de l'Armée, K 491).

    C. Aries (fasc. XXII, 1974), discussing the very similar partizan in the Musée du Prytanee Militaire de La Fleche, shows that the presence of the H on the collar of the Saint-Esprit indicates a date after its reintroduction in 1667. He also points out that the motto Nec pluribus impar was not adopted until about 1668. He dates this particular weapon and no. A1005 immediately after this. There are three comparable partizans in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, nos. 04.3.64 (still apparently with its original ferrule), 04.3.65 and 14.25.375 (with its coat of arms cleaned off). The second is inscribed on both faces RAVOISIE FOVRBISSEVR DV ROI A PARIS (S. Pyhrr, letter of 8 July 1982). The caul and tassel of no. A1008, although differing from the examples illustrated by Aries, appear to be original. At the time of the Demidoff sale (1870) the staff of no. A1008 is said to have been covered in blue velvet.