Home > Auctions > 26th November 2019 > Viking Type XI Sword with Silver Inscription

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LOT 0431

Estimate
GBP (£) 8,000 - 10,000
EUR (€) 9,330 - 11,670
USD ($) 10,320 - 12,900

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £8,000
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Viking Type XI Sword with Silver Inscription

Mid 10th-late 12th century AD

A long Western European double-cutting sword with Brazil nut pommel and a guard where, unusually, the thin and marked quillons are curved towards the blade, which has a very wide but little marked central groove along its whole length; a silver and copper damascened inscription in capital letters to the fuller, on one side of the blade, on the strong part of it, preceded by a Latin cross, reading: PETRNVS + EO IVSTA NNVS + NC; the weapon is very elegant, with finely tapering and beautifully proportioned blade, thin in section and yet, in conjunction with the somewhat small Brazil nut pommel, able to produce an excellent degree of balance; the fuller and cutting edges remaining extremely well defined. 984 grams, 93cm (36 1/2"). Fine condition. Very rare.

Provenance
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.

Literature
See Petersen, J., De Norske Vikingsverd, Oslo, 1919; Davidson, H. R. Ellis, The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England, Oxford, 1962; Oakeshott, E., The sword in the age of the Chivalry, Woodbridge, 1964 (1994); Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002; Gilliot, C., Armes & Armures V-XV, Bayeux, 2008.

Footnotes
This sword belongs to the type XI of the Oakeshott classification. This type is characterized by a long, narrow blade, sharply contrasting with the broad, short blades of Type X, the edges running parallel for about two thirds of the blade's length, then tapering in subtle curves to an adequate point. The fuller is narrow, often very shallow and poorly defined, and runs four fifths of the blade's length, sometimes (in later examples) beginning in the tang within the hilt. The cross in most surviving examples tends to be straight and of rectangular section, but examples with curved quillons are not unknown, like in our specimen. With respect to the actual topological development of the type, it is evident that the taller, slimmer pommels were the early ones, and the small, thick, blunt pommels were the later ones. We note that, with the smaller, thicker pommels follow the longer lower guards, that sometimes are slightly curved. In particular we shall here note sword C 12217 from Sandeherred (Petersen, 1919, f. 129), where the transition to medieval swords has already begun, the pommel’s underside already begun to become convex [being the earliest stage of evolution towards the Brazil-nut pommel], and the cross-guard being decisively curved. The majority of pommels are of the various Brazil-nut forms, though a good many have disc pommels. A few have thick disc pommels with strongly bevelled edges (Type H - see chapter III). The tang is short, generally with parallel sides, and not so flat as in the Type X swords (Oakeshott, 1964 (1994), p.32). The sword finds good parallels with various swords of the same typology. The beautiful sword from Padasjoki, Finland, second half of 10th century (Peirce, 2002, pp.122); a sword in a private collection, from mid 10th to early 11th century (Peirce, 2002, pp.124-125); the sword of the Musée de l'Armée, Paris, from mid 10th to mid 11th century (Peirce, 2002, p.131). We should not forget a similar 12th century German sword published by Gilliot (2008, p.121) reporting also the inlaid inscription SPES MEA JESUS PER OMNES... (Jesus my hope amidst all "trials"...). Another, also published by Gilliot (2008, p.121), a German or North Italian work showing the same almond pommel and slightly curved quillons. Although fitted with a different pommel, a sword of this typology (dated from late 11th to early 12th century) from Marikkovaara, Rovaniemi, Lapland (Peirce, 2002, pp.134-135) shows the identical delicately sculptured cross with a gentle curve towards the blade visible in our specimen. This type has generally been considered to belong to the period c. 1120-c. 1200–1220, but recent research has given it a much earlier date.

Most probably our specimen is from a battlefield or from a grave. The piece is in excellent condition. The well formed Brazil-nut pommel and the long, almost imperceptibly curved cross are both of a form hitherto held to be of a date no earlier than c. 1100, but there is actually plenty of evidence that they were in use, particularly in England, during the 10th century (Davidson, 1962). Several English manuscripts, date-able within that century, show long, slender swords (Oakeshott, 1964 (1994), fig.12) with hilts much akin to this example; in some cases the cross is extremely long, and very sharply curved. There is a pommel, too, in the British Museum, found at Ingleton in Yorkshire with a mount of inlaid silver gilt and decorated in a typically English style of c. 900 which is - or was, for the iron part is much corroded - very similar indeed in shape to the pommel on the category of swords in question, and to those in the manuscripts referred to. The inlaid letters of the inscriptions in these Type XI are very much smaller than the ones in type X, and so appear to be neater. This smallness and apparent neatness has caused scholars to assume that these inlays are a progression from the cruder, earlier ones, and are thus later in date. But correctly Oakeshott has demonstrated that they have to be smaller, for they must be fitted into a very narrow fuller, not allowed to sprawl over a very wide one.


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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £8,000

Lot No. 0431

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Auction Venue:
The May Fair Hotel London
Stratton Street
Mayfair London, W1J 8LT

Viewing from noon Monday 25th November 2019
Champagne Reception: 6pm - 9pm

Tuesday 26th November 2019 (Day 1)
Lots 1-660 (Antiquities)

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