The Wallace Collection

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Falchion
  • Falchion
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • mid 16th century
  • Steel, agate hardstone, iron, leather, silver and gold, chiselled, etched and hatched
  • Length: 61.7 cm, blade
    Width: 4.1 cm, at guard
    Weight: 1.68 kg
    Length: 77 cm
    Balance point: 6.5 cm, forward of the guard block
  • Maker's mark: 'M' in a ship
    Maker's mark Common North Italian mark
  • A710
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Falchion, the hilt composed of a pommel of gilded iron cast as a lion's head, gilt; oval grip of agate (not original to the sword, possibly modern); diagonally curved guard, oval in section, chiselled with acanthus leaves in low relief, gilt on a ground hatched with silver, and terminating in lion's heads; single, solid oval shell guard similarly decorated.

    The blade, broad, single-edged and curved, has two shallow hollows on either side a strong ricasso, deeply etched and gilt. It is etched with the crowned arms of Cosimo de' Medici (1519-74) encircled with the collar of the Golden Fleece. Cosimo was Duke of Florence between 1546 (when he was elected to the Order of the Golden Fleece) and 1569 (when he was created Grand Duke of Tuscany by Pope Pius V), receiving then a crown of peculiar design different from the circlet here represented (Litta, Famigli celebri italiane, II, Medici, tav. XIII; and (for the arms), tav. III). Between the crown and the shield on the blade is a bird, its wings displayed, its dexter foot upon a ring.

    Two maker's marks are present on both faces of the ricasso of the blade. The mark of the letter M in a ship (which is also found on no. A502) occurs on the sword of Heinrich Julius, Duke of Brunswick, c. 1585, at Dresden (Ehrenthal, p. 73, no. E168), and is there ascribed to Clemens Keuller; and along with two other marks on a sword sold at Sotheby's, 20 March, 1942, lot 10. The second mark is a common North Italian one, and is sometimes found in connection with the 'Genoa' and 'Fringia' marks (see Z.H.W.K., II, p. 75).

    Italian, mid-16th century. The grip is probably a 19th-century replacement.

    De Beaumont Catalogue, no. 26 and pl. VIII; Livrustkammaren, VIII, 5, 1959, fig. 8; J. F. Hayward, Mannerist Sword-hilt Designs)

    Provenance: Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    The decoration of the pommel differs somewhat from that of the guard in workmanship. Boccia and Coelho, in Armi bianche, 1975 (figs. 387-8), this piece is described as North Italian, about 1550, and the blade attributed to a Master M with a ship, working in Venice. However, in Boccia, Rossi and Morin (Armi e armature lombarde, 1980, pI. 248), it is suggested that the maker may have been based at Nave, a small town near Brescia, the ship being a canting device on the name of the town. (See also nos. A502 and 620 here). They describe no. A710 as a hunting weapon for large game such as wolves and bears. The first mark seems to be a capital letter M above the hull of a ship, all in a rectangle with uneven edges. A comparable mark occurs on no. A502 here, but struck with a different punch.

    The sword of Heinrich Julius, Duke of Brunswick (born 1564, Duke 1589-1613) also bears a wolf mark of Solingen type. The hilt is attributed to the Dresden sword-cutler Ullrich Jahn (Schöbel, 1975, pp. 44 and 84). The same mark occurs on another falchion blade in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence (no. R89; Boccia and Coelho, 1975, fig. 386); on a sword blade at Vienna (Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, inv. no. A683); and on another in Paris (Musée de l' Armée, no. J.I 1359). A variant of this mark with a mast and standing rigging in place of the M appears on no. A620 in the Wallace Collection, where it is accompanied by a wolf mark of Solingen type. S. Pyhrr (letter of 23 April 1976) has pointed out that no. A710 corresponds in every detail, save the material of the grip, with an entry in the Gardaroba Medicea, vol. 539, p. 12v (Archive di Stato, Florence), the Medici inventory of 1639.