The French inscription in red paint reads: ‘Executioner’s sword found by Captain Muller in the Kasbah during the taking of Algiers…bears the date 1663, was used in particular for the beheading of Christians.’ Captain Muller was under the command of General Count de Ghaisnes de Bourmont at the time of the defeat of Hussein Dey, ruler of the Ottoman Regency of Algiers. This chopper must have been part of the loot captured by the Ottomans during the Austro-Turkish war and siege of Vienna in 1683. Sigismund Franz (1630–1665) was ruler of Austria from 1662 to 1665. France’s invasion of Algiers in 1830 was initiated by Charles X after the French consul Pierre Deval was struck in the face by the Dey with his fly-whisk. Their dispute arose from the delay in paying Jewish merchants in Algiers for the delivery of grain for French troops. When defeat stared the Dey in the face, he negotiated his own free passage to Naples, along with his harem and personal wealth, where he lived out his final years peacefully. We fear, as the media distributes images of grisly beheadings of Christians, that we are slipping back into a time of uncontrollable barbarism. This weapon could serve as a reminder that nothing much has changed; and probably never will.
Provenance: Dr. Ben Harnon Collection, Paris