The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Cinquedea
  • Cinquedea
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1490
  • Steel, ivory, bronze, gold, copper and copper alloy, inlaid, blued, gilded and stained.
  • Length: 44.8 cm, blade
    Width: 9.5 cm
    Weight: 0.97 kg
  • Inscription: 'PROPTER · CANES · E'
  • A740
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
Further Reading
  • Cinquedea, having a large, arch-shaped hilt of ivory, now stained black, shod with gilt bronze decorated round the edge with foliage, a putto and a female figure in low relief. The grip is inlaid with four pierced circles of brass; down one side runs a narrow band of copper gilt, inscribed:

    PROPTER · CANES · E

    The corresponding strip on the reverse side is missing. The curved guard is broad and terminates at the edge of the blade. The latter is flat, with four, three and two hollow panels from base to point, and is decorated with the legend of the Rape of Europa, selectively gilt; the subject on the reverse side is obliterated. This cinquedea is much eroded and has probably been recovered from a river bed. The ivory grip is stained green where it is in contact with the gilt-bronze mounts.

    Italian (Ferrarese?), about 1480.

    Laking, European Armour III, figs. 851-2.

    Unlike the three preceding cinquedeas this one has the arched pommel which one commonly associates with the type, as seen on nos. A744, 746 etc.
    The U-shaped pommel-cap has on one end a figure of Cupid and on the other end a naked captive seen from the hips up. A similar figure in reverse occurs on the cap of no. A745. The punctuation marks of the inscription are cross crosslets, as on no. A742. Cleaning in 1972 and 1975 revealed that the scenes on the blade represent Argus and lo as a cow and Pyramus and Thisbe respectively.

    Boccia and Coelho (1975, figs. 203-5) illustrate the very similar 'cinquedea' in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris (no. J.777), which they ascribe to Ferrara, about 1500. A 'cinquedea' blade in the Musée' du Louvre appears to be by the same hand. Its sheath bears a coat of arms apparently consisting of Bentivoglio impaling a bend. Decoration in this style and technique also occurs on a 'cinquedea' blade in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (no. 26.145.57) and on a large blade of 'cinquedea' form lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1982. On one side of the blade of this last is depicted Orpheus emerging from the gates of the Underworld; the scene on the other side has not yet been identified.

    The type of decoration found A740, consisting of broad areas of gilding on the surface of the blade against a blued ground, known in German as Goldschmelz, has frequently been doubted. While this style certainly attracted more than one imitator in the 19th century, there can be no doubt that the decoration of A740 is genuine. The cleaning revealed wide areas of decoration formerly concealed by a thick and very hard coat of rust.