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French Executioner Axe with Exceptional Provenance, 17th C
From the collection of Fernand Meyssonnier and once featured in the Museum of Justice and Punishment in Fontaine de Vaucluse near Avignon, France. Forged steel head with a large forging flaw, resulting in delamination of a large section on the reverse side. There is an old repair of a 1/4" pin through the blade face and peened over to hold the laminated layers together. Stamped with 2 large touch marks and a starburst decoration. Tapering oval socket; mounted on its original heavy curved ash haft. Slightly convex 13 ½" cutting edge, sharpened on one edge. Light corrosion and rust marking. Overall length 46 5/8", weight 6 pounds 10 ounces, including haft. While this axe likely was not made specifically for execution, axes of this type were widely used for that purpose. Even the famous executioner’s axe in the Tower of London, known to have been used for the beheading of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, in 1747, began its life as a timber hewing axe.
Fernand Meyssonnier (1931-2008) was an executioner in French Algeria from 1947 to 1961 and executed over 200 convicted criminals by guillotine. He is the author of the book "An Executioner’s Tale" (French Text). His family has been linked to the executioner’s trade since the 16th Century. This exact axe is prominently featured on the internet when a search is conducted on Meyssonnier.
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