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LOT 0469

GBP (£) 4,000 - 6,000
EUR (€) 4,670 - 7,000
USD ($) 5,160 - 7,740

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £4,000
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Medieval Type XII Single-Handed Sword

1075-1155 AD

An original Viking iron blade of Oakeshott's Type XII, variant 12 (Oakeshott, 1991, p.81), reused with Type XIII, variant 1 hilt, and a T2 pommel (Petersen type Z Viking sword); the double-edged sword has a broad, flat, evenly tapering blade, acutely pointed and magnificently preserved to give an unusually fine balance to its user; the fullers are well defined, deeply cut into the blade to a depth of approximately 1.5mm, divided in three parallel lines extending from below the guard for a little less than half of the blade's length; it is followed by the image of an inlaid beast (a unicorn? a wolf?) chiselled neatly into the surface; the grip is still retaining part of a later leather cover; the style of cross-guard is unusual, and the later pommel is from the T2 category. 1.2 kg, 1.02m (40 1/4"). Fine condition. Very rare.

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market via Flicker, inv.1152, classified as Saint Maurice's sword; accompanied by an academic report written by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Oakeshott, J, R.E., The Archaeology of the weapons, London,1960 (Woodbridge, 1999); Oakeshott, E., The sword in the age of the Chivalry, Woodbridge, 1964 (1994); Peirce, I., Swords of the Viking Age, Suffolk, 2002; Oakeshott, E. Records of the Medieval Sword, Woodbridge, 1991; Scalini, M., A bon droit, spade di uomini liberi, cavalieri e santi, Milano, 2007.

This sword, although it can be classified belonging to the XII-XIII groups individuated by Oakeshott (1964 (1994), p.37) resembles, with its singular guard and cross-guard, the famous sword of Jaxa of Miechow, at the Bargello Museum, Florence (Scalini, 2007, pp.111-113, cat.13). The guard and cross-guard are identical, missing only of the highly decorated elements of the Polish sword. They are a derivation from the typology of the hilts visible in the Petersen group Z, as it is possible to see on the swords from Vesilahti, Finland (Peirce, 2002, p.127, mid 11th century) and Canvick Common, in the Norfolk (Oakeshott, 1991, p.81, dated 1050-1100). It shows identical hilt with a beautifully-wrought, 11th century Viking sword, that was discovered in 2011 by the archaeologists who were excavating in the Setesdal Valley in Southern Norway. It is clear that the Slavic or Germanic craftsman who made the hilt continued a local tradition derived from the Vikings. Certainly the fact that only few swords existing in the world are showing such particular cross-guard is symptomatic of a local production, and can help to locate the first core of the sword in the Eastern Europe, where also the successive addition could have been made. The cross-guard and the blade are in an incredible state of preservation and we can exclude that they have been ever inside a grave. Maybe, similarly to the sword of Miechow, also this weapon has represented more of a symbol of familiar ownership than a weapon used on the battlefield.

Most probably our specimen is a family treasure. The piece is in excellent condition. The sword’s hilt was made in the late 11th or early 12th century, or even at the end of the century, but was with all probably re-adapted to a successive blade presenting the three fullers typical of the Oakeshott XIII.1 typology (Oakeshott, 1991, p.96). Also the leather covering the grip is probably a further addition from the Renaissance Age (like the leather covering of the grip in the Miechow sword), while the T2 pommel was adapted to the sword possibly in a period comprised between 1360-1420 AD, when the employment of such pommels was very widely spread (Oakeshott, 1994, p.105). The shape of the sword seems to point also to the typology XIV.7 of the Oakeshott group, and in particular to a sword of the Oakeshott collection (1960, pl.9c; 1991, p.123) dated at 1300 AD. Here the blade tends to be broad, but particularly characteristic are the three deep fullers, punched twice on each side, which seem to be in common use until the XVII century.

Interestingly, the small animal punched on the blade seems to be a 12th or 13th century engraving, which will support the idea that the blade could be the original one. The image corresponds near perfectly with the one of the 'Wolf of Passau', i.e. of the image of a 'running wolf' made by the blacksmiths of Passau (Oakeshott, 1960, p.223, fig.105a). If the blade was made in a Polish or Slavic workshop, its identification with a wolf could be possible, and the linking of the Miechow sword with Jaxa Von Köpenik links also our specimen with the German medieval world. The decoration of the Miechow sword represents an ox or a bull, or even a cow, but it is connected with the heraldry of Jaxa Von Köpenik. It is not impossible therefore to speculate that the engraved running wolf of our sword was in some way chosen because it was the owner's family emblem, or simply because the 13th century blade was done in Passau. During the thirteenth century blade-smiths began again to inlay their products with maker's marks. It is generally possible to distinguish 'trade-marks' from religious symbols. After going out of use for 800 years, it suddenly became popular and was inlaid upon countless sword-blades after perhaps about 1250. It is difficult to draw a line between religious and trademarks: hearts, for instance, whether on their own or within a circle might be either; but where we find a helm, or a shield, or a sword (there is a sword inlaid in the blade of the Type XIII war-sword in the Guildhall Museum, Oakeshott, 1960, pl.7c), or a bull's head (on a sword c. 1300 in Copenhagen), or of course the famous 'Wolf' which is first found on thirteenth-century blades. A mark which can easily be mistaken for the 'Wolf' of Passau is a unicorn; since both wolf and unicorn are only very summarily sketched with a few inlaid strokes, it needs 'the eye of faith' to distinguish an animal at all; the examples of the unicorns which Oakeshott saw on various blades looked exactly the same as the wolves, except that they have a long straight stroke sticking out in front (Oakeshott, 1960, p.223, fig.105b).

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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £4,000

Lot No. 0469

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Auction Venue:
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Viewing from noon Monday 25th November 2019
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Tuesday 26th November 2019 (Day 1)
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