Prince Odoevsky’s sabre is billed as “undoubtedly the most artistically and historically significant Imperial Russian sword to be offered in America since the September 1945 Gimbels sale of three shashka from the Imperial Collection at Tsarskoe Selo (one of which, the cased garniture of the Tsarevich Nikolaevich Alexei formerly in the Collection of Robert M Lee, remains in private hands)”.
The sabre, 3ft 5in (1.04m) long overall, is designed in the Empire Style popular with all the royal courts of Europe at the onset of the 19th century, particularly in the Court of Tsar Alexander I in which all things French were greatly admired. It features a 2ft 7in (79cm) Damascus blade in watered (wootz) steel from Esfahan (Isfahan) and signed and dated by the maker Work of Assadillah Esfahani (Assadillah of Esfahan) 1215 (1800-1801).
Even before the Battle of the Pyramids in 1798, the fashion of using Ottoman Damascus sword blades and gun barrels in European swords and firearms was prevalent due to the unparalleled excellence of Damascus steel.
The sword also bears a period presentation in Cyrillic translating to ‘Year 1810 Podporuchik I.I. Odoevsky’.
Prince Odoevsky (Ivan Ivanovich) had a distinguished military career serving with the Pavlogradskii Hussars. He was killed in action on January 29, 1814, at the Battle of Brienne in France. A portrait of the prince in civilian dress is in the Moscow State Historical Museum.
His sister, Princess Varvara Ivanova Odoevsky, wrote a series of letters describing life in Napoleonic Moscow used by Count Leo Tolstoy as background material for War and Peace, in which the author specifically mentions the Pavlograd Hussars.
The saleroom says: “As Tolstoy based his characters on actual historical personages it is likely that Prince Odoevsky was one of them.”
The sword was subsequently owned by Captain Louis Peugnet of the Garde Imperial du Corps, then the owners of The Stone House, St Vincent, New York.