The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Rapier
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Hilt- Italy, probably; blade- Germany, possibly
  • probably 2nd quarter of 17th century
  • Steel, copper and wood, pierced
  • Length: 123.6 cm, blade
    Width: 3 cm, blade, above the ricasso
    Weight: 1.23 kg
    Length: 138.7 cm
    Width: 18.3 cm
    Balance point: 14.4 cm, forward of the guard block
  • Incised mark: '* X X X *'
    Stamp: 'S'
    Maker's mark
  • A605
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Rapier, the plain swept-hilt, composed of a pommel of tapering cylindrical form with fourteen faint facets; grip bound with copper wire; diagonally curved crossguard; hilt-arms, triple ring, loop- and knuckle-guard, the small ring in front filled with a shell pierced with quatrefoils, the usual transverse triple bars on the inner side; the hilt of bright steel, the guards of flattened oval section; blade of flattened diamond section, the groove incised:


    and stamped at the end on either side with the letter s; the ricasso also bears a maker's mark which resembles that upon the rapier, A576. Compare also for form to A612

    Compare the hilts of nos. A599, 640, 807, 841 and 843.

    Thrusts were discovered to be lethally effective in civilian combats during the mid- sixteenth century. By the 1550s some fight masters, most prominently Camillo Agrippa, were arguing in favour of the almost exclusive use of the thrust in duels. Such a trend immediately exerted a strong influence on the design of the swords employed in civilian fights. The blade narrowed and became longer and longer. Unlike the older estoc, however, the rapiers of the mid- to late sixteenth century never lost their cutting edges entirely. However with its great length, thick spine and little in the way of a distal taper, the rapier of the later sixteenth and early seventeenth century began to closely resemble its distant military relative- a long spear of steel fixed to an elegant swept-hilt.

    This quality is very apparent on this fine Spanish rapier of the early seventeenth century. It carries one of the longest, most acutely tapered blades in the Wallace Collection. The distal thickness of the blade is maintained all the way to the point which, because of the extreme taper in the blade’s profile, assumes a square cross-section reminiscent of the armour-piercing weapons of the late Middle Ages. However in an urban duelling environment, this powerful, puncturing blade would not encounter plate armour, but rather only the clothing, flesh and bone of its owner’s enemies, through which it could pass with ease.

    The one drawback to these very long rapier blades was that they were somewhat heavy and their balance point could be quite far forward of the guard, making the weapon feel blade-heavy in the hand. Although it was possible to fight with such a weapon alone, using ‘single-rapier’ technique, many found that it was preferable to employ it in conjunction with a companion weapon, a shield or, as was more practical in a civilian context, a dagger.