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Home > Auctions > 25th February 2020 > Medieval Double-Handed Sword with Inlaid Pommel

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LOT 0482

GBP (£) 2,500 - 3,500
EUR (€) 3,000 - 4,210
USD ($) 3,260 - 4,560

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£2,250 (EUR 2,704; USD 2,931) (+bp*)

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Medieval Double-Handed Sword with Inlaid Pommel

Early-late mid 14th century AD

A Western Middle Age iron longsword from Italy, of Oakeshott's Type XV.A, cross style 8, pommel style J (recessed); strongly tapering, acutely pointed blade of four-sided 'flattened diamond' section; the edges are straight, and taper without curves to the strongly reinforced point; strong signs of battle nicks along the edges to both sides that may have reduced the width of the blade; cross style characterised by the very solid écusson which grows naturally out of the two arms, tapering gradually outward to sharply down-turned tips; long grip with slight taper, disc pommel with chamfered edges, with gold inlay once probably indicating a heraldry, today lost; shiny brown patina, no serious pitting; nice example of a well employed sword, ideal for a weapon designed to deal powerful cutting and thrusting blows. 1.1 kg, 1.05m (41 1/4"). Fine condition, restored.

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.
See Oakeshott, R.E., The Archaeology of the weapons, London, 1960; Oakeshott, E., The sword in the Age of the Chivalry, Woodbridge, 1964 (1994); Oakeshott, E.,Records of the Medieval Sword, Woodbridge, 1991; Oakeshott, E.,Sword in hand, London, 2001 (2007); many specimens recall our sword: but the most striking sample is the one from the Lake of Lucerna (Oakeshott, 2001 (2007), p.140); another extremely similar sword, although lacking the grip, was found in the Thames in London, and should still be in the collection of the Society of the Antiquaries at Burlington House in London; this can be dated with some certainty between about 1310 and 1340 AD, because it was found in the Thames when the foundations were being prepared in 1739 AD for Westminster Bridge, and evidently it fell into the river in its scabbard, so that when it was discovered, the three silver mounts of it were still upon its blade; these are exactly of the same type as on the sword of Can Grande Della Scala in Verona and that on the Berkeley effigy in Bristol (Oakeshott, 1960, pp. 308-309); others similar specimens are from a group exemplified by one in the collection of the late Sir James Mann, found in Northern France, another in Yorkshire, and yet another with an Arabic inscription which probably came from Italy; they vary a little in size, otherwise they seem almost identical (Oakeshott, 1964 (1994), p.59).
Type XV seems first to have appeared in the second half of the thirteenth century. With type XV we come to a form of blade which does not seem to have been in use since the days of the short Roman gladius or the longer spatha of the Roman Empire. The general outline or silhouette of this type is much like that of the previous type XIV, but the section of the blade is different, as in the prime function of the sword. The type XIV was conceived and used when the main protective armour was mail, with or without metal, leather or quilted reinforcement, and it was primarily a hewing and slashing weapon. The type XV allowed the warrior to deliver a lethal thrust, also if the protection was completely made of metal plate. The blade XVa type was similar, though generally narrow and slender, to the general typology. The grip was much longer, from 7" to 9" or even 10". Forms of pommel and cross are the same as for Type XV. Many swords of this type, like our specimen, have long grips, like the war-swords of Type XIII. After about 1350 AD, nine swords out of ten seem to have such grips, and are today variously referred to as 'hand-and-a-half' or 'Bastard' swords. The latter term was used in the fifteenth century AD, but it is not certain that it was applied to this particular kind of weapon. 'Hand-and-a-half'', though modern, is a name more apt for it; these swords were single-handed weapons, but by being furnished with long grips, could at need, be wielded easily in both. All these hand-and-a-half swords have grips about 7" long, sharply tapering blades of four-sided section about 32" long, straight crosses tapering towards the tips, which are abruptly turned downwards and large pommels of Type J. Various military effigies and brasses of the period 1360-1420 AD, show swords like this one; there is only a limited variety in the forms of hilt, and the blades are long and slender. However, we cannot say for certain that they are of Type XVa, because they are sheathed; and many of the swords of Type XVII are of the same shape and proportions, but have a different blade-section. On English effigies of the second half of the fourteenth century AD, are many such swords; the best (and the best known) is at the Black Prince's side on his tomb at Canterbury; one almost identical is on the effigy of Lord Cobham (Oakeshott, 1960, fig.139). In these effigies the cross is nearly always shown as a straight or slightly curved bar of square section, possibly because to portray the rather delicate down-turned tips would be difficult and over-fragile in stone. Type XV may seem to have been misplaced, for it continued in use for almost two centuries and was most popular after 1350 AD, yet the sub-type seems to have gone completely out of use within the second half of the 14th century. The reason being that Type XV began during the latter part of the 13th century, whereas XVI may not have come into use until just after 1300 AD.