Northern Italian, Milan or Brescia, the hilt perhaps Florence. This rare example represents a movement which began in the mid-16th century: figurative hilt swords and daggers. The inspiration was the interest in figurative bronzes, including small jewel-like cabinet examples as produced by Benvenuto Cellini among others. The earliest examples are influenced by the Mannerist movement with emphasis on strength, musculature and movement. By the mid-17th century, the interpretations had become quite fanciful, suggesting an earlier date for this example which is executed with the power and sensitivity closer to Cellini’s style (In the Nick Carter series of spy novels, one of Carter's trademark weapons is a 400-year-old stiletto named Hugo said to have been made by Benvenuto Cellini). This example is mounted with a finely chased bronze hilt, originally gilt, representing a leopard mounting and fiercely defending a post with a monogrammed shield on the front, presumably the initials of the owner. Small shields and other armorial devices were particularly popular where powerful noble families ruled by creating alliances with each other and the Church. The 6 5/8” triangular section blade is characteristic of the late 16th century as it evolved from the poignard and remained popular through the mid-17th century.