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- Sebastian Hernandez (active between: c. 1560 - 1600)
- Toledo, Spain
- c. 1585 - c. 1600
- European Armoury III
- Bookmarkable URLRapier, the extremely fine swept hilt comprised of a pommel of flattened cylindrical form, with button; grip, with diamond-shaped grooves, bound with iron and gilt wire; single curved rear quillon, terminating in a small disk; knuckle-guard, joined to the arms of the hilt by a loop-guard; side-ring and the usual transverse bars on the inner side are all of oval section; the entire hilt decorated in relief, with conjoined cartouches damascened in gold with scroll-work of great delicacy and minuteness. In the larger cartouches are combats, nude figures, masks and conventional flowers chiselled in low relief and gilt. Although the design is somewhat stiff, the damascening upon it, and upon the inner bars, as well as the chiselled work within the panels, is of the highest quality. Blade of hexagonal section, the single groove at the hilt inscribed with the name of the maker:–
∙SEBASTIAN / HERNANDES∙
The ricasso stamped on one side with the figure 3 crowned and surmounted by a cross. Sebastián Hernández, the elder, was working in Toledo about 1570.
Compare to A549, also by Sebastián Hernández.
The blade of the rapier A532 also bears the name of Sebástian Hernández. But the mark is a crowned S/T. In the Real Armería of Madrid is a series of rapiers by Sebastián Hernández the elder, nos. G 53, G 55, G 56, G 65, G 82, and G 192. At Dresden is a rapier which bears the same mark (together with another), inscribed: Johannes Moum (E 445).
The mark is similar to no. 90 in the list of Toledo swordsmiths published by Francisco Palomares in 1762, which he gives to Sebastián Hernández the Younger (see under A532).
Chiselled with scenes of warriors in combat, the hilt of this extremely fine weapon is further distinguished by the fact that the tiny figures have been painstakingly fire-gilt, while the ground being blackened. The tiny scenes have then been placed within a framework of connecting cartouches standing in higher relief than the scenes themselves, so as to surround and contain them. The regular, geometric pattern of the cartouches contrasts strikingly with the fluidity of the fighting figures, a contrast further emphasised by minute designs in gold inlaid into the cartouches themselves. These twisting vines are in fact so tiny that it almost requires a magnifying glass to see them properly.
Such work was incredibly expensive. Enormous sums were frequently poured into the acquisition of fine rapiers, so much so that it became one of the most significant status symbols in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The French writer François Dancie stated in 1623 that the rapier was the ‘finest plume of a great man, without which he cannot be distinguished from a financier, merchant, or burgess, whom the abuse of our times permits to be as well-dressed as he’. Yet fashionable clothing and art sometimes met with opposition from traditionalists. One out-spoken opponent of the art of the finely-decorated rapier was the social commentator Phillip Stubbs, who wrote in his Anatomie of Abuses (1583) that swords ‘clogged with gold and silver’ were ‘an infallible token of vain glorie, and a greevous offence to God’.
- Possibly Sebastian Hernandez (active between: c. 1560 - 1600)
- Germany or Toledo, Spain
- c. 1620 - c. 1640
- European Armoury II
- Bookmarkable URLRapier, the hilt made up of a flattened oviform pommel, with button; vertically fluted wire bound grip; straight crossguard widening towards the ends and finishing in small knobs; hilt arms, two side-rings and bars at the bend crossing in saltaire, all flat in section, the smaller ring is filled with a shell pierced with a diamond-shaped holes; the whole of bright steel, chased in low relief with conventional flowers bound with riband, on a punched ground. The double-edged blade is of hexagonal section, the single groove at the forte being inscribed:–
The ricasso bears on either side a crowned S/T.
The blade is Spanish (Toledo) or a German imitation.
Compare the rapier A611, which bears the same maker's name but a different mark. The rapier A533 also appears to be a member of the Hernandez family; the rapiers A612 and A652 bear a crowned ST but of a different type. That upon A532 closely resembles a mark upon two swords at Dresden (E 601, 609). At least three swordsmiths of this name are recorded as working in Toledo. Sebastian Hernandez is listed by Jehan Lhermite, writing of his visit to Toledo in 1600 and apparently copying a document in Spanish. He states that he signed his name in the fuller and struck a mark on the ricasso consisting of a small figure 3 with a crown above. On his earlier blades he had at the end of the fuller a device inlaid in latten which Lhermite draws. It looks like a capital letter C followed by the letter X inclined so that the sinister arm is parallel to the bottom of the page and forms the cross-bar of a reversed figure 4. (Le passetemps, II, 1896, p. 295, No. 15). Lhermite also says that the son-in-law of this Sebastian Hernandez, a swordsmith called Roque de Guital, on the death of his father-in-law was allowed to make use of his name and mark. In addition he placed on the edge of his ricassos the words espadero del Rey (op. cit., p. 297, No. 22). Clearly, when the source used by Lhermite was written, the first Sebastian was already dead. It is presumably this second man that C. Suarez de Figueroa includes in his list of the best swordsmiths working in Spain, which he published in 1615 (Plaza universal de todas ciencias y artes, p. 334). Francisco Palomares, in his list of Toledo swordsmiths published in 1762, includes two men of this name. One, his no. 89, he calls el viejo (the elder) and says that he was alive in 1637; the other, no. 90, he calls el mozo (the younger) but gives no dates for him. Both used very similar marks, a small figure 3 under a crown all in a shield-shaped stamp. Neither man used a wildman as his mark as stated in the 1962 Catalogue on pp. 273 and 281. Palomares says that the younger man also worked in Seville (Seitz, Blankwaffen, II, pp. 266-7). The only Sebastián Hernández recorded as a swordsmith in Seville J. Gestaso y Pérez in his Ensayo de un diccionario de los artífices que florecieron en Sevilla desde el siglo XIII al XVIII inclusive, III, 1909, p. 171, is mentioned in the year 1599. There were in fact a number of swordsmiths called Hernández in Seville in the 16th and early 17th centuries, but the relationship, if any, between them and the Toledo families of the same name is unknown. Blades signed and marked by what is thought to be the oldest Sebastian are in the Real Armeria, Madrid, nos. G53 and G56. The blade of a sword in the old Electoral Armoury at Dresden, the hilt of which is attributed to Othmar Wetter between 1590 and 1597, is signed SEBASTIAN HERNANDEZ / INTE DOMINE SPERAVI (1899 cat., no. E277; Schöbel, 1975, pl. 45b). The mark on the blade of A532 in fact resembles that attributed by Palomares to Tomás de Ayala, alive in 1625 (no. 93; see under no. A567 here), which suggests that this blade is a German imitation.
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