The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Sword
  • Sword
  • Ambrosius Gemlich , Etcher
  • Munich, Germany
  • c. 1540- c. 1650 (blade (German))
    c. 1630 - 1650 (hilt)
  • Steel, copper and gold, chiselled and etched
  • Length: 93.9 cm
    Length: 80.2 cm, blade
    Width: 3 cm
    Weight: 1.325 kg
  • Inscription: 'A G'
  • A711
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Sword, the hilt made entirely of gilt copper and made up of a pommel in the form of the head of an eagle; spiral grip; guard curved slightly, square in section, the ends chiselled into lion's masks; square escutcheon with a grotesque mask on either side overlapping the base of the blade; the pommel, grip and escutcheon are of one piece, the guard is inserted on either side of the escutcheon. The broad, slightly curved, single-edged blade is of triangular section, with hollowed sides and bevelled edge, etched (and formerly gilt) along its entire length with a frieze depicting the siege of a town on the one side and a stag hunting in a wood on the other, the latter signed near the hilt with the initials of Ambrosius Gemlich of Munich. The guard has a plugged hole at its centre outside the hand, which suggests that there was originally a shell at this point. The original tang of the blade has been broken off and replaced by welding the blade to a new ricasso.

    Hilt about 1630-50; blade German (Munich) about 1540.

    Provenance: Louis Carrand (Une épée allemande à poignée de bronze doré, 12,000 fr. with no. A23 and other pieces), receipted bill, 16 July, 1867; Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    Compare the hunting sword of Hans zu Törring in the Bayerisches National Museum at Munich, etched with a frieze of a boar hunt signed and dated A.G., 1536.

    Gemlich, who worked at Munich, seems to have specialised in calendar swords (see no. A725). He signed with his name in full that of Charles V at Vienna (dated 1530), and a combined calendar hunting knife and pistol in the Metropolitan Museum of New York, dating to either 1540 or 1546, the last figure not being clear (Cat. of Daggers, no. 324). Other calendar blades bearing his initials are in the German Historical Museum, Berlin (1532), the Landesmuseum at Münster, Westphalia (dated 1533), and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, inv. no. W581. Blades etched by him with ornament are two at Berlin (both dated 1542) and one at Dresden. He signed a combined match- and wheel-lock once in the Pauilhac Collection, now in the Musée de l’Armée, Paris (Stöcklein and Seiler, Z.H.W.K., XVI, 1940, pp. 11-19. He also signed the etching on a breastplate previously attributed to Konrad Bemelberg, now understood to be the work of Wolfgang Grosschedel of Landshut, at Vienna (inv. no. A376). Similar initials occurred on a fluted armour in the Ratibor sale, Lucerne, 1934, lot 93, but in this case the etching had been retouched and the initials must be regarded as doubtful (illustrated by B. Thomas, Deutsche Plattnerkunst, 1944, pI. 25). Compare also the etched frieze on the state sword in the Royal Collection at Stockholm (Cederström, Gustav Vasa Minnen, 1938, p. 177).

    A hilt with a comparable lion mask on the end of the simple rear quillon, and with a side-shell turned towards the blade, is visible in ‘Cyrus and Araspes’ by Laurent de la Haye, painted about 1638 (Art Institute of Chicago, inv. no. 1976.292). On a second sword, also in this painting, a pommel formed like a cock's head is shown. As C. Blair has pointed out, swords of this type seem to have been looked on as typical of Classical times (1974, no. 50). He mentions, for instance, a portrait of Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle (1663-80), in classical armour, by Sir Peter Lely, in the Royal Collection.

    In Van Dyck's The Continence of Scipio, painted about 1620 to 1621, Scipio, who wears classical dress, carries a cross-hilted sword with an eagle's head as its pommel (Christchurch, Oxford).