This important and unique sword was presented to the famed French painter Jean-Gabriel Domergue to commemorate the painter's election to the illustrious Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1950. One of the highest honors bestowed on a French artist, the ceremonial induction into the French Academy has been accompanied by the presentation of a sword since the age of Napoléon. Rather than a weapon, the sword became part of the Academician's uniform, and, over time, its design came to represent the interests and aspirations of its recipient. This example was designed entirely by Domergue's wife Odette, a great sculptor in her own right, and thus it represents both a highly personal gift and an important art historical relic.
The design of the sword is simply magnificent. Odette Domergue found her inspiration in antiquity, a theme that is also seen in the neoclassical sculptures that occupy the gardens of the couple's famous home, Villa Fiesole - also known as Villa Domergue - in Cannes. The impressive weapon boasts a solid gold handle that takes the form of a sinuous caryatid, who is nude save for a single swath of drapery. While the female figure recalls the sculpted supports prevalent in ancient Greek architecture, she also calls to mind the subjects for which Domergue was renowned - languorous, slightly risqué women with a seductive air.
Other decorative elements such as fauna, cypresses, and grotesque heads enhance the whimsy and imagination of the incredible neoclassical design. Furthermore, the scabbard that contains the finely etched blade is also an impeccable work of art. Crafted of black Moroccan leather in imitation of snake skin, it displays intricately engraved foliage patterns with a lion's head and Domergue's coat of arms.
Though imagined by his wife, the sword was expertly chiseled by the celebrated goldsmith R. Delsinne and assembled by the atelier of the famed sculptor and medalist Raymond Delamarre. Celebrated for his sculptures in the Art Deco style, Delamarre created ceremonial Academician swords for just eight members of the French Academy - the present piece is among these select few. Executed with exceptional skill, it is a remarkable example of these unique and imaginative weapons, which are still being made today for the new members of France's distinguished academies.
A photograph showing Jean-Gabriel Domergue in his Academician uniform with the sword accompanies the piece, as well as a certificate of authenticity dated April 10, 2017 and signed by Mr. Noé Willer, member of the Alliance Européenne des Experts d'Art.
Signed at the base "O. DOMERGUE Scr" and "R. DELSINNE Cir"
Blade engraved "Jean Gabriel Domergue / de l'Académie des Beaux-Arts / 1950"
36" length x 4 1/4" wide x 1 7/8" high