The Wallace Collection

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War hammer
  • War hammer
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France
  • c. 1450
  • Iron and oak
  • Width: 15.5 cm, hammer and beak
    Length: 9.5 cm, top spike
    Weight: 1.22 kg
    Length: 71 cm, total length
  • A975
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • War hammer, the head of two parts: (1) hammer of diamond section with dentated face and strong, four-sided beak on the reverse side; it is secured to the haft by short straps; (2) short, vertical spike of diamond section widening to form a square box which fits over both hammer and beak, and is secured with a bolt and nut. The edges of the box lightly serrated. Haft of oak shod with modern iron ferrule.

    Possibly French, about 1450.

    Viollet-le-Duc VI, 189. The iron ferrule to the haft is not reproduced; Laking, European Armour III, fig. 871

    Provenance: Félix Petitprêtre (?) (marteau d'arme, 75 fr.; receipted bill, 13 March, 1869); Comte de Nieuwerkerke. This piece was formerly catalogued as coming from the Juste Collection, but the war hammer A976, answers more closely to the description given in his bill.

    The large size of the head of this piece relative to the length of the haft suggests that it may originally have been mounted on a longer staff as a two-handed weapon.

    This type of hammer (martel-de-fer) is the precursor of the bec-de-faucon, or Rabenschnabel. Designed to defeat plate armour, one is shown in the hands of a horseman in Uccello's picture of The Battle of San Romano in the National Gallery. An early instance is on a late 13th-century effigy in Malvern Abbey church.