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LOT 0464

Estimate
GBP (£) 1,200 - 1,700
EUR (€) 1,400 - 1,980
USD ($) 1,550 - 2,190

Opening Bid
£1,200 (EUR 1,400; USD 1,548) (+bp*) Add to Watch list

Medieval Type XVIIIb Two-Handed Long Sword

1450-1500 AD

A Western long-sword of possible Italian manufacture; the pommel is pear or of bottle-like shape (s. Oakeshott, 1960, p.330), and of type T manufacture, mounted on a straight guard of diamond section with straight long quillons; the leather covering of the grip, which in ancient times was marked by a bulge to indicate the point in which the fighter should put his hands, is absent; the long cut and thrust two-edged blade is strongly marked and of flattened section, without fuller, tapering gradually towards the point; the edges are well preserved and without signs of employment in battle. 1.1 kg, 1.15m (45"). Fine condition. 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; believed originally from Liege, Belgium; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

Literature
See J Oakeshott, R.E., The Archaeology of the weapons, London, 1960; Oakeshott, E. The sword in the Age of the Chivalry, Woodbridge, 1964 (1994); Talhoffer, H., Rector, M. (ed.), Medieval Combat: a Fifteenth-Century Illustrated Manual of Swordfighting and Close-Quarter Combat, London, 2000; Fiore de Liberi, Flos Duellatorum, in armis, sine armis, equester et pedester, ed. Rapisardi G., Riproduzione anastatica del codice Pisani-Dossi (reproduction of the Code Pisani-Dossi).

Footnotes
According to Oakeshott, types XVIIIb and XVIIIc of his classification represent the later long-swords of the mid-15th to early 16th centuries. They have a flattened diamond cross-section, often with pronounced mid-rib, some being hollow-ground. Type XVIIIb blades are slender, comparable to XVa blades but longer, measuring between 90 and 107 cm, with a correspondingly longer grip, often waisted for comfortable two-handed use. They have a long, slender, acutely pointed blade, generally of 'flattened diamond' section, often with the point reinforced. The grip is very long, often as much as 10"–11". The pommel is most frequently of one of the wheel forms, but second to those in popularity, seem to have been the scent-stopper and fruit-shaped ones of Types T (like in our case) and T5. Crosses are generally long and slender, more often straight than curved. The grip is usually of a very characteristic shape, with a waisted lower half which merges with a slender upper half, but in some Italian specimen the grip is straight (Coronation of the Virgin by Giovanni Bellini in the Gallery at Pesaro) like in our specimen (Oakeshott, 1964 (1994) pp. 70ff.), anticipating the hilt of sub-type XVIIIe.

The long-sword, evolving from the late medieval blades which could be used with two hands, began its diffusion in 15th century. It was also called 'bastard sword', but this word (generally referred to in English contexts as 'hand-and-half sword') was applied only in the 15th/16th centuries to these long-gripped weapons. The term 'longsword' is ambiguous, and refers to the 'bastard sword' only inside historical contexts going from late medieval to Renaissance age. For example in a treatise of the 17th century by a certain Marc de Vulson (Vray Theatre d'Honneur) describing a duel fought in 1549 before Henry II of France he says of the weapons used 'Deux epees batardes, pouvant servir a une main ou a deux ('two bastard swords able to serve with one hand or with two.). The more correct terms for such a sword used in 15th and 16th centuries varied according to the languages: in Spanish and Portuguese they were called espadón, montante, or mandoble; in Italian spada longa (lunga) or spada a due mani (Bolognese); in French passot. Interestingly the English word claymore, derived from the Gaelic claidheamh mòr (great sword), it came to refer to the Scottish type of longsword with v-shaped crossguard.


The long-sword was a type of European sword characterised as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use (usually around 16 to 28 cm (6" to 11")), a straight double-edged blade of around 85 to 110 cm (33" to 43"), and weighing approximately 1 to 1.5 kg (2.2 to 3.3 lb). By the 15th century, plate armour was nearing its peak performance, providing outstanding head-to-toe protection for those who could afford it, i.e. the nobles and the richest condottieri. Dispatching those armoured warriors by sword required a strong, acute point that could probe the gaps in armour and split the mail rings often worn beneath. The things were very different for the ones which, on the battlefields of 15th and early 16th centuries, could not afford such high level of protection. Contemporary artwork reveals that the average infantryman was likely to wear usually a helm (usually a variety of sallet, cervelliere, chapel-de-fer) and jack of plate or brigandine (a cloth or leather vest lined with small iron plates). He was susceptible to thrusts - which might not debilitate - as well as cuts that could immediately debilitate by amputation, decapitation or the severing of ligaments and major muscle groups. Such terrible hits were realised by using the long-swords on the bloody battlefields of the European chessboard.

In a parallel way, the codes of fighting with the long-swords existing since the 14th century evolved in different schools of fighting and duelling with them, among which excelled the Italian and the German one. Talhoffer, a German fightmaster of mid-15th century, wrote a treaty (Fechtbüch) on the use of the weapons and also of the long-swords, versatile and effective weapons capable of deadly thrusts and cuts. The Italian artwork in this sector was the Flos Duellatorum di Fiore de Liberi. The blade was generally used with both hands on the hilt, one resting close to pommel using sometimes the open ring as visible in our specimen as loan point. Given its high length and heaviness, to load a stroke with such a sword required sometimes the use of the whole body and, in case you wanted to force the opposing guard, sometimes you used to hold one hand on the hilt and a hand between the middle grade and the 'weakness' of the blade (i.e. the part more near the point). The latter was not very sharp either to allow this type of use, or because the blow was given precisely with the 'weakness' of the blade.


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