The Wallace Collection

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Ceremonial glaive
  • Ceremonial glaive
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1620
  • Iron or steel, gold and silver, damascened, engraved, gilded and blackened
  • Length: 76.2 cm, head
    Length: 89 cm, including socket
    Weight: 2.85 kg
  • A949
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Ceremonial glaive, with a tall head, the forward cutting-edge shaped to a gradual convex curve. The back is practically straight and has a sharp edge for ten inches from the point, where it is broken by a projecting scroll-shaped leaf. Placed at right angles two-thirds of the way down there is an ornamental projection (as on A945-6), the edges elaborately cut out and pierced with a circle of eight holes and ending in a spike of diamond section. At the base of the blade are two short, trilobate spurs. The blade is joined to the socket by a cushion-shaped member. The socket is of flattened octagonal section with two long side-straps or langets. The blade (except for the cutting-edge and point) is overlaid on both sides with fine gold arabesques enclosing irregular panels, framed in interlacements studded with silver piqué dots and containing emblems and insignia engraved and gilt; the ornament throughout is on a blackened ground. In an oval escutcheon in the centre are the arms of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (a griffin displayed, beneath a chief charged with an eagle displayed) surmounted by a cardinal's hat. The panels above this contain successively, the griffin from the Borghese arms, three palm-branches encircled by a coronet, and the Papal tiara and crossed keys. Below is the eagle from the Borghese arms, and the bottom panel is filled with a foliated pattern. The socket has small panels similarly framed in silver dots, containing foliage and demi-figures. The side-straps are engraved with a strip of foliage, but only roughly executed as they would normally be covered by the tassel. In 1908 the head was dismounted from its original velvet-covered staff, and a short truncheon substituted for purposes of exhibition.

    North Italian, about 1620.

    Laking, European Armour IV, p. 343, fig. 1411.

    Provenance: possibly the glaive acquired by Nieuwerkerke for 500 livres from Moreau, vîcomte de Courval, which was the subject of correspondence between them in March, 1868, in which there was a suggestion that it should first be offered to the Emperor.

    According to the late Sir Guy Laking, there were originally twenty-five of these weapons preserved in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome from which this example was removed in the 18th century. Another of the set is now in the Musée de l' Armée at Paris (no. K 126), which was presented to the French Government by Prince Borghese in 1836. Eight of them were included in the Palais Borghese sale, Rome, March, 1892. Examples are in the Armeria Reale at Turin; in Prince Odescalchi's collection, Rome; in Viscount Astor's collection at Hever Castle; in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Riggs and Stuyvesant collections); one in C. O. von Kienbusch's collection (now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art); and one in the Gardner Museum at Boston; one was in the Baron collection (du Sommerard, Album I, pl. IV), 1838, perhaps identical with A949; two were in the Leiden collection, sold Cologne, 1934, lots 501, 502. They have been copied in recent times and not all the extant specimens are genuine.

    Scipione Borghese, elected Cardinal in 1605, was the son of Marcantonio Caffarelli by his wife, Ortensia, sister of Pope Paul V (Borghese) whose name and arms he assumed.

    This piece was offered by Nieuwerkerke to the South Kensington Museum for purchase in 1871. Receipt dated 21 July 1871. R. Lightbown (letter of 27 July 1966) suggested that the coat of arms might be that of Camillo Borghese, the future Pope Paul V (1605-21), when still Cardinal Vicar General of Rome. The Vicar General, who was the Pope's deputy in his diocese of Rome, had a band of archers and sergeants (see J. A. Aymon, Tableau de la Cour de Rome, The Hague 1707, pp. 166-8). Boccia and Coelho (1975, fig. 501 and note on p. 388) suggest, however, that the arms are those of Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese, nephew of Paul V. They believe that, although in the Venetian fashion, the glaives were made in Rome. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Kienbusch collection, cat., no.138, pI. LXIII), are a backplate and culet decorated in the same manner and with the same motifs, which came from the Borghese sale of 1892.