The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Sword
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Probably Italy, possibly Milan
  • c. 1550 - c. 1560
  • Iron, steel, gold and silver, overlaid and blued
  • Length: 87.7 cm, blade
    Width: 2.7 cm, blade, at guard
    Weight: 0.72 kg
    Length: 100.7 cm
    Width: 18.5 cm, guard
    Balance point: 13.8 cm, forward of the guard block
  • Maker's mark
  • A509
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Civilian side-sword, the hilt comprised of a vase-shaped pommel with button; grip of baluster form; shaped crossguard of oval section, with slight diagonal and horizontal curve, and terminating in squat, vase-shaped knobs like the pommel; the entire hilt richly decorated with an intricate pattern of conventional foliage in scroll form damascened in gold on a russeted ground.

    The hilt is mounted on an associated wavy, double-edged tapering blade, the undulating edges by shallow notches alternately chamfering on either side; both sides stamped with a maker's mark; there is no ricasso, the width of the blade being slightly reduced at the hilt.

    The type of mark and the damascening of the hilt suggest Italian workmanship, although it shows strong Oriental influence. Compare this example to the form of a sword in the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum (Laking, European Armour, fig. 1348).

    Sword hilts overlaid (or inlaid) wholly in gold are rare. There is one in the R.L. Scott Collection at Glasgow which is encrusted in gold, rather than silver, as was more usual. Cf. J. F. Hayward, Scottish Art Review, 1956, VI, no. 1.

    There are traces of counterfeit-damascening (overlay) in silver and gold on the ricasso. A sword of this type, designed to be worn in civilian dress, would probably originally have been called a rapier.

    Boccia and Coelho, Armi bianche italiane, 1975, fig. 407; Norman and Barne, 1980, pp. 65 and 359. What may be this hilt, but mounted on a different blade, is illustrated in a photograph captioned "Etlinger Collection, Würzburg, 1868" in de Cosson Scrapbook III in the Library of the Royal Armouries. The Etlinger collection was sold by C. F. Forster, in Würzburg, on 31 August 1868 and following days, but the descriptions of the lots are too brief for identification. If Benvenuto Cellini is to be believed, the use of ivy or bryony leaves instead of acanthus in gold overlay indicates Lombard work as opposed to Tuscan or Roman work (R. H. H. Cust, The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, I, 1927, pp. 112-13).