Zoran Marcov

Reprezentări ale principilor transilvăneni pe săbii nobiliare maghiare din sec. al XIX-lea / Representations of Transylvanian princes on 19th century swords of the Hungarian nobility

Jan. 1, 2020

Gabriel Báthory
Gheorghe Rákóczi I
Principatul Transilvaniei
stilul istoricist
sabie nobiliară
magnaţi maghiari
sec. al XIX-lea
investigaţii XRF
colecţia Muzeului Naţional al Banatului
Principality of Transylvania
historical style
nobility sword
Hungarian magnates
the 19th century
XRF investigations
the collection of the National Museum of Banat



The collection of weapons in the National Museum of Banat includes two 19th century Hungarian ceremonial swords which feature many design and ornamental elements that can mislead the laymen in the field of old heritage weapons. Made in accordance with the tendencies of the historical style, the two pieces imitate the design of the end of the Middle Ages Transylvanian princely swords. Moreover, representations and inscriptions dedicated to the Transylvanian princes Gabriel Báthory (prince between 1608–1613) and Gheorghe Rákóczi I (between 1630–1648) are preserved on both sides of the blades. The two swords from the NMoB collection are part of a larger series of pieces inscribed with the names of Transylvanian princes, similar swords having been identified both in the online bibliography and in two other museum collections in our country: at the National Museum of Romanian History (Gabriel Báthory) and in the collection of the National Military Museum “King Ferdinand I” in Bucharest (Gabriel Báthory and Gheorghe Rákóczi II). The common element of all these swords is the blade, the basic component of the weapon, which is identical in all these pieces, from a typological point of view: it has a curved shape, with a wide fuller placed under the blunt edge, on both sides, more than two-thirds of the length of the blade. The decorative motifs and inscriptions are engraved in identical layout in all the analyzed pieces. Regarding the arrangement of the engraved decoration, it must be emphasized that it is laid out on superimposed registers, perpendicular to the length of the blade, in the same order on all the swords examined. As regards the inscriptions present on these blades, especially the princely portraits, we can appreciate that the main source of inspiration was the Transylvanian princely numismatic heritage, preserved to this day in museums or private collections. The princely portraits present on the blades of the swords are copies of representations present on the obverse of the vintage coins. The princely bust and the official title, which appear on the obverse of the coins, are elements shown on the reverse side of the blades, while the princely coat of arms, present on the reverse of the coins, is engraved on the reverse side of the swords. The swords from the NMoB collection were analyzed with an XRF spectrometer, and the results obtained show a very high similarity between the two blades: a very high concentration of iron and an insignificant presence of other related chemical elements. The other components of the swords are of different types and shapes and the materials used range from solid gilded silver to plain brass. Based on the results offered by the XRF spectrometer, we can conclude that the blades used on the two swords were made in the same time interval, using modern metal processing techniques. The differences found in the other components of the swords indicate a ranking of the pieces according to value, which corresponds to the social status of the sponsors. From a chronological point of view, the two bladed weapons from the NMoB collection date from the second half of the 19th century, possibly the last decades of that century. We agree to this point of view, given the evolution and impact of the historical style in this space, an artistic current which the two analyzed weapons represent. The lack of information on the origin of the two swords negatively contributed to the long process of identifying and documenting the parts. The two swords were registered in the museum’s inventory on January 8, 1959, being part of a swords lot which also includes that of the noble Osztoics family from Șemlacu Mare and Șemlacu Mic. Given the uncertainty surrounding the origin of the swords, we hope that future research will elucidate this mystery and will be able to identify the sponsors of the pieces.