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Early 17th Century German or Italian Rapier

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Price: £2,500

Ref: 42701129

Item Description

A German or Italian made military rapier mounted with a swept hilt dating to the first part of the 17th century. The rapier is a nicely balanced weapon in original condition with a consistent layer of dark patination all over having never been invasively cleaned.

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 countries across the region at the time. The complex hilt is an elegant example of the early 17th century armourers’ craft formed with attractive flowing curves which complement the strength of its construction. The hilt maintains its original pleasing shape and contours and is without damage and repairs. The rapier is mounted with a long , stiff, diamond section blade meant for thrusting and may well have seen service in the 30 Years War in Europe.

The construction of the hilt resembles that of any other high quality rapier of the period. Its plain form indicates that it was most likely made as part of a consignment purchased to equip the household guard of a regional magnate,

The swept hilt is of deceptively complex construction. The platform is a strong quillon block with short downwardly pointing langets from which the horizontal quillons extend front and back. These are of rounded form and swell slightly towards their terminals.  To the front a knuckle bow curves upwards to the pommel and terminates in an outward facing curl.

Beneath the block two outwardly curved symmetrical finger, or pas d’ ane, rings extend downwards and terminate in subsidiary blocks near the end of the ricasso. The outer guard consists of a curved bar which connects with primary and secondary guard rings attached to the pas d’ane ring terminals below and the knuckle bow near the top. On the inner guard side three bars of rounded form rise upwards from the pas d’ane ring terminals which converge into a single bar which is forged onto the knuckle bow near the top.

The truncated cone shaped pommel has an integral waisted button on top and a waisted flared neck beneath. The original hard wood grip tapers towards the pommel and is of oval cross section bound with contra-twisted ropes of steel wire and is mounted with “Turks Heads” top and bottom made from woven steel wire.

Made for thrusting the long, fine quality, plain, tapering double edged diamond section blade retains its original length of just over 42.25 inches (just over 107 cm). The rapier is 49 inches (124.5 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, p. 132. 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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