Fine Antique Arms & Armour

Fine North European Two Handed Sword Dating To Circa 1520-30 Ref: 020.17


Price: £18,500

Item Description:


A fine, well proportioned and imposing German or North European two handed fighting sword (hand and a half sword) dating to circa 1520-30. The distinctively flat, downwardly curved quillons of this sword, widening towards square-ended terminals and applied with central twisted rope-like decoration, plus the deeply grooved pommel with fluted surfaces and blued hilt parts, mark this sword out as a member of a distinctive and unique group of North European two-handed swords dating to the early 16th century. So far as we know, four swords have been identified of this type.


One fine example, almost identical to ours, is illustrated in "Records of the Medieval Sword", Ewart Oakeshott, 1991, St Edmundsbury Press, page 241, (which sold in the 1960s through Peter Dale Ltd of London - the same example also illustrated in "The Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons", Leslie Southwick, Antique Collectors Club, 1982, page 29, fig 49). Oakeshott comments that a third similar example is in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (Inventory Number M.602-1927 illustrated in European Swords, Anthony North, page 6 fig 3) and another in Zurich (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Inventory Number LM 16933). We have identified a fifth example illustrated in "Edged Weapons in Sweden", Staffan Kinman, Stockholm, 2014, page 29, fig 26b.


The broad blade is single edged with a wide spine underneath which two fullers extend from the hilt for 40% of its length after which the blade is double edged and keen. The end of the spine is filed with three crescent-shaped notches after which the blade is of lenticular section. An armourers mark of facing crescents terminating in ovals, a further oval imbetween and flanked by trefoils of diamond shaped dots is present on one side a few inches from the hilt. The marks are most likely of a Passau smith.


The hub of the cross is formed as a flat guard bar of rectangular section. The distinctive quillons are rounded near the hilt and expand in vertically flattened form to their terminals and are decorated with raised diagonally grooved rope-like lines aliong the middle flanked by further incised lines. Two horizontal ring guard bars of rounded section are applied to the sides each formed with two raised knops with similar "roped" finish. Beneath the cross, a downward facing round section bar of open crescent shape is applied and into which the shoulders of the ricasso are fitted to secure the blade. The terminals of two further crescents are forged onto the ends of this bar with the upper surfaces attached to the edges of the side guard rings, each decorated with two filed knops of similar form to those described above.


The pommel is pear-shaped with a narrow integral neck. Eight equally spaced deep grooves radiate from the pommel top to its base. The ridges imbetween are filed with narrower lines similar in depth and spacing as the lines which form the rope designs on the guard. The guard and the pommel retain much of the original blue / black finish. The waisted stepped grip is of wood covered with leather over a cord wrap.


These large swords were not just for two-handed use. They were designed to be used equally well with one hand by a trained user. In the 16th century these swords were probably not a rare site on European battlefields, carried by mercenaries and professional soldiers in armies fighting almost permanently during a time of shifting religious, political and dynastic driven strife. As fashions changed towards the beginning of the 17th century they went out of use and today are rare compared to the survival rates of two-handed swords of the "bearing sword" variety - large, well made, imposing and decorous, but designed mainly to be carried point up in civic procession rather than for use in combat.


Blade length 41.5 inches (105.5 cm). Length overall 52 inches (132 cm).


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