The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Rapier
  • Tomás de Ayala , Swordsmith
  • Italy
  • c. 1610 - c. 1630
  • Iron, steel, gold and silver, encrusted and gilded
  • Length: 127.3 cm
    Length: 110 cm, blade
    Width: 2.8 cm
    Weight: 1.34 kg
  • Inscription: '·DE TOMAS · DE AIALA·'
    Stamp: Royal arms of France
  • A567
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Rapier, the swept, fluted hilt comprised of an oviform pommel, associated but contemporary, with a button; wire-bound grip (of later date); knuckle-guard branching on either side to connect with the hilt-arms, and straight crossguard of quatre-foil section swelling slightly at the ends, with triangular escutcheon; the loop-guard on the outer side of the knuckle guard connects with the triple ring-guard, that on the inner side divides into three; at the end of the hilt-arms is a side-ring; the bars, like the crossguard are of quatrefoil section decorated with a riband pattern and spots encrusted in silver, on a blackened ground, formerly gilt, the inner sides being stippled and gilt, and the pommel being decorated en suite. Double-edged blade of hexagonal section, with single flute at the forte incised on both sides:


    The ricasso is stamped on each side with a blademith's mark which appears to represent the royal arms of France, and is not that usually associated with Tomas de Ayala (or Aiala). Compare the inscription and mark upon the rapier A643.

    Tomas de Ayala was a leading Toledo bladesmith, but most blades bearing his name cannot have come from his hand. His is one of those names frequently made use of as a kind of trade label, indicative of a certain type of blade, rather than with any intention to deceive. It was being applied to blades as late as the 18th century.

    The decoration of the pommel is the same as that on the guards of the sword held by Rubens in his self portrait with his first wife, painted in 1610 (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, cat. no. 334). R. Ramírez de Arellano records a Tomàs de Ayala, swordsmith in Toledo, who was a member of the Brotherhood of the Conception in the Parish of St. Nicholas in 1563, and its Steward (Mayordomo) in 1571 and 1578, and again in 1583, the year of his death. In 1572 he purchased a house in the Calle de Armas, near the convent of Santa Fe, from Alonso de Sahagún, presumably the well-known swordsmith (see under A491). A chaplaincy in the parish church of St. Nicholas was founded in his memory. His wife, who survived until 1609, was Catalina Rodríguez, almost certainly a member of another family of Toledo swordsmiths, since she names as one other executors Juan Rodríguez, an espadero (Catálogo de artífices que trabajaron en Toledo, 1920, pp. 14-15 and 246). Boeheim suggested that this first Tomas might have been the son of Diego Juan de Aiala, a goldsmith of Barcelona, in the service of Queen Isabella (Waffenschmiede, No. II). Jehan Lhermite, writing about his visit to Toledo in 1600, and copying a document in Spanish, says that Thomàs de Ayala signed his name in the fuller on each side and struck his mark on the ricasso; a small s crowned. Later he changed his mark, making the S larger. On some of his earlier blades he put IHESVS. MARIA, on either side of his name. Lhermite goes on to say that his son Luys de Ayala was a very good craftsman and used the same mark as his father (Le passetemps, II, 1896, pp. 295-6, no. 13). Luys de Ayala is recorded in Toledo in 1576, and was dead by 1608, when his mother left money for masses to be said for his soul in the convent of St. Augustin (R. Ramírez de Arellano, 1920, p. 14). A second Thomàs de Ayala, apparently alive in 1625, is no. 93 in the list of Toledo swordsmiths published by Francisco Palomares in 1762. His mark is given as S over T crowned, all in a shield-shaped stamp (Seitz, Blankwaffen, II, pp. 266-7). For versions of this mark or a very similar mark, see under nos. A532, A612, and A652 here. A blade bearing this signature and mark is in the Real Armeria at Madrid, no. G99; another is in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris, no. J.126. The sword with gold and enamel hilt, given to the Elector August of Saxony by the Emperor Maximilian II at Frankfurt in 1562, has a blade signed by Thomàs de Ayala (Haenel, 1923, pI. 46a). A blade signed DE TOMAS DE AIALA in Dresden is mounted in a hilt dated 1604. It bears the mark S over T crowned in a shield-shaped compartment, as illustrated by Palomares (1899 cat., no. E400). A blade signed TOMAS AIALA EN TOLEDO ANNO 1610 is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. M.2794-1931; Hayward, Swords and Daggers, 1951, pI. 12b).

    It is not certain which Thomàs de Ayala is referred to by Suarez de Figueroa in his list of the best Spanish swordsmiths published in 1615, but since some of those he mentions were already dead, he may be referring to the earlier man (Plaza universal de todas ciencias y artes, Madrid, p. 334). Palomares also lists under no. 71 a Luis de Ayala, son of Thomàs de Ayala, presumably the man he says was alive in 1625, and thus representing a fourth generation of the family. He gives him two separate marks, one a smaller version of his father's mark, and the other the letter L crowned, all in a shield-shaped stamp.