Early Nguyễn emperor Minh Mang (ruled 1820 – 1841) claimed a Chinese legacy and went through great lengths to sinicize his subjects, introducing Chinese clothing and an orthodox Confucianist model of state. He was well known for his opposition to missionaries, and his resistance to French involvement in the country.
Ornate Vietnamese guom (narrow-bladed sabers) such as this one were carried by officers of the Nguyễn dynasty (1802 - 1945). They are loosely based on design elements of sabers the Chinese Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), such as the pointy scabbard profiles, Western design elements such as the knucklebow and lion head pommel, combined with purely Vietnamese craftsmanship and aesthetics such as the style and workmanship of the silverwork on the mounts, the carving of the handle, and their fine mother of pearl inlays.
A young emperor flanked by military officers carrying their ornate ceremonial guőm.
Overall length: 86 cm / 33.9 inch
Blade length: 68.3 cm / 26.9 inch
Blade thickness: forte 4.5, middle 2.5 mm, near tip 1.5 mm
Blade width: forte 29 mm, middle 29 mm, near tip 20 mm
Weight without scabbard: 656 grams
Origin: Nguyen Dynasty, Vietnam.
Materials: Iron, steel, silver, ivory, wood, mother of pearl.
Dating: 19th century
A magnificent example of a Vietnamese ceremonial saber, or guőm. Its hilt consists of a carved ivory handle carved with a thickening of swastika fretwork with a flower on each faceing side at the top, and stylized lion's manes running over its back to the silver lion head pommel. One of the flowers has a red lacquered center. The silver ferrule is decorated with typical Vietnamese vegetal motifs in repoussé. The D shaped guard emerges from the lion's mouth and makes a sharp bend to come at right angles with the blade. It consists of patinated copper lined with thick silver, with decorative chiseling near the pommel.
The blade is typically thin, with a main groove flanked by a narrow companion groove. The narrow groove merges into floral chiselwork on either side of the main groove, in typical Vietnamese fashion. There is a silver cloud shaped collar at the base of the blade, on a ribbed washer.
The scabbard mounts are of sheet silver with very fine decoration in repoussé, depicting narrow vines bearing fruits and flowers with the occasional squirrel. On top of the scabbard mouthpiece is a curly structure in thick silver ribbon that holds one of the suspension rings. This work is repeated on the scabbard endpiece. The tip of the scabbard is in the shape of an eagle.
The scabbard body is of a reddish hardwood with the finest, most exquisite mother of pearl inlay work I've seen to date. Nguyễn dynasty mother of pearl inlay work ranks among the best such work in the world, and this example is better than any I've seen. The motifs consist of vines with long and extremely thin tendrils bearing leaves and fruits. The scenes are livened up with a bat, several butterflies and four squirrels. The scenes feature inlay work of mother of pearl into mother of pearl of a different hue, where surfaces were matched precisely. The work stands out not only in fineness, but also in complexity and artistic merit.
An wonderful Vietnamese officer saber exhibiting more artistic flair than most in the design and execution of the silver mounts and scabbard decoration. The mother of pearl inlays are the best I've ever seen on such a piece.
To meet the demands of the Convention International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), this object is sold with an appraisal document from a certified Dutch appraiser of the TMV Federation. Among others, it states that: The item is manufactured in the 19th century. Scabbard inlays are of mother of pearl taken from the shell of the abalone species pinctada margaritifera, non-CITES listed. The handle is bone, with carved ivory pommel of the species elephas maximus, listed on CITES appendix I.
The item is within article 2 of council regulation EC NO338/97 and within Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES): The materials were removed from the wild and significantly altered from their natural state well before the date of convention: June 1st, 1947. It can be freely traded within the EU without a permit, and is eligible for CITES export permit for trade outside of the EU.*
*Buyers outside of Europe: Beware that it may not be possible to export the item to your country due to restrictions on international ivory trade. CITES sets the minimal restrictions, countries and states under the convention often maintain further restrictions on top of CITES.