The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Scimitar with scabbard
  • Scimitar with scabbard
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Venice, Italy
  • probably c. 1550 (hilt (Italian))
  • Steel, gold, silver, copper alloy, enamel, wood and velvet, inlaid, hatched, chiselled, enamelled and gilded
  • Length: 86.7 cm, blade
    Width: 3.4 cm
    Weight: 1.14 kg
  • Incised mark: '1618' in Oriental style
    Inscription: 'Ya fata' In Arabic, translation 'Oh Victory'
    Label: 'R.W. / F.D.' Wired on
  • A713
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Scimitar and scabbard, the pistol-shaped hilt of steel is of oval section swelling at the end with a small beak, and chiselled with a network of arabesques in low relief, showing traces of gilding, with a small bird-like beak, and pierced with a circular hole for a thong, with three human heads in relief on the pommel; diagonal curved guard of diamond section, terminating in satyr-masks; oval shell-guard in low relief chased with Horatius Cocles defending the Sublicain Bridge against the army of Porsenna.

    The curved blade is of triangular section, single-edged except towards the point, and grooved. The background of the decoration is hatched with silver.
    Scabbard of wood covered with green (formerly blue) velvet and mounted with lockets; chape of steel with scrolls in low relief and oval panels representing Leda and the Swan, Europa and the Bull, and a nude figure armed with spear and shield, formerly gilt; the lockets on the outer side have rings for suspension, the latter bearing a small label (wired on) with the letters

    R.W./F.D.

    The hilt North Italian, probably about 1550; the blade is Middle Eastern.
    Lièvre, Collections célèbres, pI. 84; Lièvre, Musées et collections, 2 Sér., pI. 30; Skelton II, pl. CV; Meyrick Catalogue, no. 639; Laking, European Armour IV, fig. 1345 (who considered it to be of German workmanship); Livrustkammaren, VIII, 5, 1959, fig. 17 (J.F. Hayward, Mannerist Sword-hilt Designs).

    Provenance: possibly no. 58 in the list of swords and daggers acquired by Meyrick from Domenic Colnaghi, about 1818, now in the Library of the Royal Armouries. Meyrick suggested that this scimitar might have belonged to a Venetian Estradiot. The date on the blade was inverted by Skelton and described by Meyrick as an Asiatic stamp. He was probably right. This scimitar, like no. A709, is an example of the mingling of European and Asiatic styles.

    The scene chiselled on the shell is based on a plaquette attributed to the Master I.O.F.F. (see no. S313 in the Wallace Collection). The mark on the blade is surrounded by an inlaid line of brass, and its ground filled with red enamel.

    Titian's portrait of Cardinal Ippolito dei Medici shows him wearing a sword with a hilt in Turkish or Hungarian fashion (Florence, Pitti Palace, no. 201).
    The inscription on the blade, which is in Arabic, reads 'Tafata', meaning 'Oh Victory' (D. Alexander, letter of 8 March 1985).