The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Longsword
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Switzerland and Spain
  • 1st quarter of 17th century
  • Iron and steel, russeted
  • Length: 95.4 cm
    Width: 3.2 cm
    Weight: 3.13 kg
  • Signature: 'SAHAGVM EL VIELO' Probably a contemporary forgery
  • A491
  • Not on display
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Longsword, the russeted hilt comprised of a hexagonal, cone-shaped pommel, supported on an iron neck which engages the grip; the latter is heavily shouldered and wire bound, fluted, with scalloped mounts at both ends; diagonally curved crossguard, of diamond section, terminating in cone-shaped knobs; the forward guards consist of a hilt-arm, and double ring-guard joined by an S-shaped bar of riband-like triangular section; two bars crossed in saltire join the hilt-arm on the right side; double-edged blade, of flattened hexagonal section, trebly fullered at the forte o the left side and inscribed:–


    Incised ricasso. The panel of inscription is terminated by the orb and cross, and a typical decorative motive.

    A very similar hilt appears in the portrait of Ludwig König-Widmer of Basel, dated 1618. Similar hilts survive in various Swiss arsenals, for instance inv. no. KZ695 in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zurich, which came from the old Zurich Zeughaus (1980 cat., no. 203, where its date is given as 1540-1570). A very similar hilt to A491, in an Austrian private collection, has a pierced plate filling the side-ring on the guard. Norman & Barne, 1980, pp. 59, 115, 228 and 251. A blade in the Armeria Reale at Turin is signed, like No. A491, SAHAGUM EL VIEIO, but bears the correct mark of a crowned S (no. G74; Mazzini, 1982, no. 135). Others undated are in the Instituto del Conde Valencia at Madrid, No. 64; in the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and no. A669 below. A rapier signed ‘Alonso de Sahagun el Mozo’ (the younger) is at Turin, no. G 74.

    Shagun is the name of a family of Toledo swordsmiths, of whom there were at least two generations: Alonso the elder, and his sons Alonso, Luis and Juan, called Sahaguncillo. Their name was much made use of by German bladesmiths in the 17th century and many examples bear it, in addition the German wolf mark. According to a note in the Baron de Cosson's MS. dictionary of marks in the archives of the Royal Armouries, the first reference to a swordsmith in Toledo called Sahagun is in the accounts of the future Philip II of Spain, 1538 (quoting Archive de Simanca, Casa Real, Leg. 51). This could be the same man as the Alonso de Sahagun "el viejo" (the elder) referred to as being alive in 1570 by Francisco Palomares in his Nomina de los ultimos,y mas famosos armeros de Toledo, published in Toledo in 1762 (no. 1; Seitz, Blankwaffen, II, pp. 266-7). In 1572 a man of this name sold a house in the Calle de Armas in Toledo to the swordsmith Tomas de Ayala, presumably the maker of the blade of no. A567 here (R. Ramirez de Arellano, 1920, pp. 14-15). In the 1962 catalogue Mann suggested that the distinction of ‘el viejo’ would have been left for the younger generation to make, and the author thus concluded that the blades were ‘almost certainly later productions.’ However the writings of Jean Lhermite suggest another explanation. Lhermite, writing of his visit to Toledo in 1600 and apparently copying a document in Spanish, refers to ‘Sahagun en Toledo’, and says that

    ‘he placed his name in the fuller on the one side and on the other and as his mark an S very well formed and large with a crown above it on the ricasso. He had three sons, also sword-cutlers, Alonso, Luys, and Juan de Sahagun, who used the same mark as their father together with their own names; therefore, Sahagun the Elder, to distinguish himself from his sons put ‘Sagagun el viejo’ on one side and the other. His swords had a smooth ricasso and were of medium size, and some were also narrow without a fuller and with three flats [i.e. of flat hexagonal section] and also ridged, and on these he put his name in monogram on the ricasso.’

    Since not all the people listed in the document Lhermite was copying were still alive when it was compiled, it is possible that it is referring to the swordsmith of 1538 and 1570. (Le passetemps, II, 1896, p. 295, No. 11). On the other hand, Gristobal Suarez de Figueroa, writing of the best Spanish swordsmiths in his Plaza universal de todas ciencias y artes, published in Madrid in 1615, names Alonso de Sahagun el viejo as working in Toledo. Figueroa gives the names of his sons as Alonso, Luis and Juan, which suggests that his Sahagun the elder and that of Lhermite are identical. If this is the case he cannot be the man recorded in 1538 and is somewhat unlikely to be the swordsmith of the 1570s. These names are apparently repeated by Rodrigues del Canto who gives Juan the nickname Sahaguncilla. Palomares also gives the same names to the first two sons but, presumably accidentally, names the third as Luiz also (op. cit., nos. 2, 73 and 74 respectively). He gives an S crowned in a shield-shaped compartment as the mark used by the father, and with very slight variations, by each of the sons. The absence of the crowned S mark on A491 suggests very strongly that the signature is a contemporary forgery (see A669).