The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Rapier
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Hilt- England; blade- probably Italian, possibly Brescia
  • c. 1605 - c. 1615
  • Iron, steel and silver, encrusted, russeted
  • Length: 111.1 cm, blade
    Width: 2.5 cm, blade, above the ricasso
    Weight: 1.28 kg
    Length: 128.1 cm
    Width: 18.7 cm, guard
    Balance point: 10.2 cm, forward of the guard block
  • Incised mark: 'E·B·C·E·B·C·E·B·C·B'
    Incised mark: '·E·C·B·E·C·B·E·C·B·E'
    Maker's mark: Crowned 'A / F' Stamped
  • A597
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Rapier, the fine swept hilt made in the English style of similar form to A596 made up of a large pear shaped pommel, with button; oval, wire-bound grip; diagonally curved crossguard of oval section; knuckle-guard, joined to the hilt arms by a loop-guard, with a short counter-guard projecting from one side of it; two plain, curved bars on the inner side; the ends of the crossguard and counter-guard, and the centre of the pommel, knuckle-guard and bar are encrusted with cherubs' heads with rays, and in silver the remainder of the hilt decorated with flowing scrolls of flowers and foliage encrusted in the same metal on a russeted ground. The doubled-edged blade is of hexagonal section, singly grooved at the forte and incised on one side:

    E · B · C · E · B · C · E · B · C · B

    and on the other:–

    E · C · B · E · C · B · E · C · B · E

    The ricasso stamped on each side with a maker's mark: the letters A/F crowned.

    In the Musée de l' Armée, Paris, is a rapier which bears the same mark, the blade being also inscribed Caino (Robert, J 156). The fullers of the blades made in Caino, a blade-smithing centre near Brescia in northern Italy, are often incised with disconnected letters; see A559, 560, 573, 608. For other instances of sequences of unconnected letters, see A574, 598, 599, 629.
    The heavy, silver-encrusted pommels and guards of A569 and 597 recall many English hilts of the period c. 1580-1610 (e.g. Windsor, nos. 60 and 61, Laking, op. cit., IV figs. 1379, 1381, and at Warwick Castle, Z.H.W.K., XV, p. 53, etc.) when the fashion seems to have been brought to this country by foreign craftsmen (cf. A511).

    A number of features mark the hilt of this rapier out as English work of high quality, rather than that of an Italian or German workshop . The very large pear-shaped pommel is typical of English swords of this period, not just rapiers but also cross-hilted and basket-hilted swords. The rounded quality of the hilts was further emphasised by the oval lozenges forming the cross-guard and forward-guard terminals and placed centrally on the knuckle-bows and loop-guards. The use of these small ovoid plates is again reminiscent of the construction of the English basket-hilt, making the English rapier seem a closer relation to it than to its continental counter-parts. The rich silver encrusting, although not exclusive to English weapons, was nevertheless especially popular in England. It is found on many comparable English swords.

    The typical decorative scheme found on English encrusted rapier-hilts involves the same masks surrounded with feathers and foliage as found on the basket-hilts, with the addition of lines of silver beads forming rectangular and lenticular panels, sometimes filled with fine foliate scrolls overlaid in gold, as on the richer of these two examples. The style is also closely comparable to the decoration found on knives bearing London cutlers’ marks. The feathers and masks motif is also found in English domestic interior decoration of the same period.