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A North European Military Swept Hilt Rapier dating to circa 1610 to 1630

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Price: £3,550

Ref: AA.055.23

Item Description

An elegant North European, possibly Italian, military rapier of fine quality mounted with a swept hilt dating to the first part of the 17th century. The rapier is a nicely balanced weapon in original “as found” condition with a consistent layer of brown patination all over never having been invasively cleaned. The grip is original although in distressed condition. The rapier is mounted with a double-edged blade designed for cutting as well as thrusting which marks it as a military rather than a duelling weapon. The rapier may well have seen service in the 30 Years War in Europe.

The hilt type is illustrated in many portraits of early 17th century date located across Europe including England, Scandinavia and the German States. This indicates that the rapier form was very popular amongst the social elites in the region at the time. The weapon is an elegant example of the early 17th century armourers’ craft formed with attractive flowing curves to the complex hilt which complement the strength of its construction. The hilt maintains its original pleasing shape and contours and is without repairs.

The hilt is of deceptively complex construction and of fully developed “swept” form. The platform is a strong quillon block with its short downwardly pointing langets from which the horizontal quillons extend. These are of rounded hexagonal form and swell slightly towards their terminals.  To the front a knuckle bow also of hexagonal section curves upwards to the pommel.  Beneath the block two outwardly curved symmetrical finger or pas d’ ane rings extend downwards and terminate in subsidiary blocks which support the ricasso neck of the blade. From these terminals three outer guard bars of rounded form rise upwards as concentric crescents. The uppermost is forged onto a subsidiary curved bar which connects with the knuckle bow half way up.  The inner guard consists of four bars which converge at the top into a single bar which also connects with the knuckle bow on the opposite side.

The slightly flattened globular pommel has an integral waisted button on top and ribbed flared neck beneath. The original baluster shaped hard wood grip is of octagonal section, has a vertical crack, but holds form. The original wire binding is distressed and much is lost.

The fine quality tapering double edged blade is of flattened lenticular section  which retains its original length of just over 37.25 inches (94.5 cm). It is cut with two bold fullers which extend from the hilt for 7.5 inches (19.0 cm). Just beyond the terminus of each fuller a “Running Wolf” armourer’s mark is cut into the blade. Within the fuller on one side is incised “F E C I T   M N” and on the other with “S A L I N G E N   M H” (made in Solingen), the letters highlighted with flanking patterns of crosses. There are numerous shallow nicks down each cutting edge. The rapier is 43 inches (109 cm) long overall and is well balanced and comfortable in-hand.

For more information regarding other examples and locations of rapiers of this type see A.V.B. Norman, “The Rapier and Small-Sword 1460-1820”, Arms & Armour Press, 1980, pp. 129 – 134. A very similar hilt can be seen in Leslie Southwick, “The Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons”, Antique Collectors’ Club, 1982, page 40, fig 76, dated by the author to 1620-1630.

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