The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Rapier
  • Rapier
  • Possibly Sebastian Hernandez (active between: c. 1560 - 1600) , Swordsmith
  • Germany or Toledo, Spain
  • c. 1620 - c. 1640
  • Iron and steel
  • Length: 94.5 cm
    Width: 2.4 cm
    Weight: 1.15 kg
  • Inscription: 'SEBASTIAN / HERNANDEZ' Possibly spurious
    Incised mark: Crowned 'S / T'
  • A532
  • European Armoury II
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Rapier, 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:–

    SEBASTIAN/HERNADEZ

    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.