Home > Auctions > 26th November 2019 > Tudor Era European Bastard Sword with Ring Guard

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LOT 0463

GBP (£) 2,000 - 3,000
EUR (€) 2,320 - 3,490
USD ($) 2,560 - 3,850

Bid History: 3   |   Current bid: £2,300
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Tudor Era European Bastard Sword with Ring Guard

1500-1540 AD

A 'hand and a half' or 'Bastard' sword, with ring guard, double-edged broad blade, lenticular in section, with single short shallow fuller, running up the first third of its length; the hilt is complex with spherical pommel (style G), the grip is elegantly wrapped with a later iron wire, the cross-guard (style 5) is broad towards the edges, where the iron quillons are ending with three small notches; the handle with a side guard together with the knuckle bow, showing two additional rings on the lower part of the hilt, bowing towards the flat undecorated blade. 1.3 kg, 1.05m (41 1/4"). Fine condition. Rare.

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; believed originally from Liege, Belgium; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Schneider, H., Waffen in Schweizerischen Landesmuseum, GriffWaffen I, Zurich,1980; Talhoffer, H., Medieval Combat: a Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat, by Rector, M. (ed.). London, 2000; Oakeshott, E., Sword in hand, London, 2001; Scalini, M., A bon droyt, spade di uomini liberi, cavalieri e santi, Milano, 2007.

By the second quarter of the 16th century, the long sword had become the 'Bastard' or 'hand and half sword', of which there are many beautiful surviving examples in excellent condition (Oakeshott, 2001, pp.137ff., figs.123-126), like the one here illustrated. The evolution of great and arming swords brought to the transformation of it in the Renaissance rapiers. The samples published by Oakeshott and kept in private collections, show how the developed hilt of the arming sword, which eventually become a rapier, was paralleled in the big 'bastard' swords. Held either in one or both hands, and also known as a ‘bastard’ sword, as its grip was not as long as a traditional two-handed sword, it can be dated to around 1500-1540 based on the decoration of its hilt. The three-notch ends of the crossbars (quillons) are quite flimsy while the finely spherical pommel recalls the swirling lobes that decorated contemporary flagons and candlestick stems. This appearance demonstrates a move away from the brutal simplicity of the medieval sword. The term 'bastard sword' was not, as supported by some scholars, a modern term, but already widely spread in the first half of 16th century. As a military weapon, it was kept in use by the Swiss for almost a century, with very few variations in shape, because it adhered perfectly to the organisational logic of the cantonal troops. So much so, that hundreds of specimens of this type are known, obviously with variations and best represented in the Swiss museums, especially in Zurich (Schneider, 1980, nn. 183-186, 190-195, 198, pp. 129-132, 134-136,138). Many of them having complex hilts.

This interesting piece belongs to the early period of diffusion of rapier in England. With all probability from a battlefield, a castle or a military site. The hilt and spatulate quillons and semi-basket guard for the knuckles is characteristically middle of the 16th century German. It was a long-term employed form, based on the shape of the swords used from horseback, hybridizing them with those of two-handed swords, thus defining an infantryman's sword, very effective against horsemen and pikemen. Its use, predominantly Germanic, involved training and a particular way of shielding, with guard positions, parades and lunges, all different from those of civilian side arms (Scalini, 2007, p.244). Swords like this were among the most versatile weapons of the battlefield. It could be used one-handed on horseback, two-handed on foot; different techniques were used against armoured and unarmoured opponents; and the sword could even be turned around to deliver a powerful blow with the hilt. Mastery of the difficult physical skills of battle, was one of the chief attributes of the aristocrat.

The art of combat was an essential part of a nobleman's education. Sigund Ringeck, a 15th-century fencing master, claimed knights should 'skilfully wield spear, sword, and dagger in a manly way.' These swords, gripped in both hands, were a potent weapon against armour before the development of firearms, but also continued to be used for long time after the diffusion of the guns and arquebuses on the European battlefield of XVI century. To fully appreciate the sword’s meaning for Ringeck as a sixteenth-century gentleman, it is important to understand its double role as both offensive weapon and costume accessory. As costume jewellery the decorative sword hilt flourished fully between 1580 and 1620. However, the seeds were sown long before. This ‘hand-and-a-half’ sword for use in foot combat carries an early sign of this development.

No part of a medieval sword was made without both attack and defence in mind. Modern fencing encourages us to see the blade, in fact only the tip of the blade, as the sole attacking element of a sword and the hilt more as a control room and protector. Tight rules prevent the sword hand ever straying from the hilt and the spare hand from getting involved at all. This is a modern mistake. The fifteenth-century Fightbook published by the German fencing master, Hans Talhoffer, illustrates a more pragmatic approach as how two fashionably dressed men settle their differences using undecorated swords with thick diamond-section blades. The blades could be gripped as well as the hilt. The rounded pommels at the end of the grip, and at the ends to the quillons, not only balanced the swing of the sword but acted as hammerheads to deliver the ‘murder-stroke’. As soon as these elements ceased to be functional, they took on the role of adornment. This sword hints at the more decorative hilts produced later in the late 16th and 17th centuries. Swords themselves varied in weight and so did the crossguards. Also there are multiple different crossguards in this category, starting from simple ones with a single sidering or none at all to some complex 'baskets'.

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Bid History: 3   |   Current bid: £2,300

Lot No. 0463

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