Decorated in the manner of Damianus de Nerven, 16th Century and later
With slender tapering blade and double fullers on each face of the forte stamped 'Fedricv/Picininv' with, towards the point, on one face 'Gesv', and 'Maria' on the other, rectangular ricasso stamped with indecipherable letters on each of the broader faces, iron hilt with guard of flat bars, ovoidal pommel of octagonal section, and bottle-shaped grip, decorated with gold- and silver-hatched damascening against a blued ground, comprising gold scrollwork arranged in panels bordered by silver dots and on the front and back of the grip and fronts of the side-rings framing larger shaped panels, those on the grip each containing a representation of a figure in Classical armour (slightly rubbed) standing in a meadow with tufts of grass, executed in gold and silver, and labelled respectively 'Hector 1(5)55(?)' and 'Achilles', those one each side-ring comprising a wide central panel containing respectively a closely packed cavalry battle (representing the Rape of Helen) and the siege of a walled city (the Siege of Troy) with onion-topped towers set within a silver moat, with 'matchstick men' soldiers, the scene in the upper ring flanked by smaller panels with the divided inscription 'Rapt/vs Hele/ne', and that on the lower ring with corresponding panels inscribed 'Trooe/n 1556(?)', the inside of the guard with silvered finish
41 in. (104.2 cm.) blade
Comte d'Armaill.
Frdric Spitzer(?).
Rothschild inv. no. AR2316.
E. de Beaumont, note in E. Livre, Les collections clbres d'ouevres d'art, Paris, 1866, pl. 95, stating that the sword 'a t rapporte il y a quelques annes, d'Allemagne, o elle passait pour avoir, avant 1809, poque du passage des Franais Vienne, appartenu l'Arsenal de cette ville'.
L'Art pour Tous, 6e anne, Paris, 1866-7, No. 178, p. 710, fig. 1616, illustrated with a different grip, but accepted as 16th Century.
C. Blair, 'A Royal Swordsmith and Damascener: Diego de aias', Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 3/1970, New York, 1971, p. 184, fig. 58, accepted as dating from 1556.
O. Gamber and C. Beaufort, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien. Katalog Der Leibrstkammer, II, Busto Arsizio, 1990, p. 122, pl. 57, described as 'Italo-French, dated 1556'.
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. A 2278, from 1967.

Lot Essay

This rapier (considered by some authorities to be authentic) belongs to a rare group of swords and daggers decorated with gold- and silver-damascened designs of a distinctive type, involving 'matchstick' figures and domed buildings, as on the side-rings of the present sword. Two pieces belonging to the group are signed on their hilts: the first, a dagger in the Historisches Museum, Dresden (inv. no. E 85), by the Spanish damascener, Diego de aias, the second, a rapier, similar to the present one, in the Hofjagd- und Leibrstkammer, Vienna (inv. no. A 586), by 'Damianus de Nerve'. De aias, whose signature also appears on a dagger of different type and a mace, is recorded as working for King Francis I of France from before 1535 until probably 1542, and for Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI of England from 1543 until an unknown date between 1549 and 1552. Nothing is known about Damianus beyond the signature on the hilt of the Vienna sword, and even that does not give the full form of his surname, since the line over the last letter is a contraction mark, though it probably indicates that it should be read as 'Nerven'. He must have been closely connected with de aias - perhaps one of his apprentices - since their decorative styles are so similar.

The maker of the blade, Federico Piccinino was the son of the famous Milanese swordsmith Antonio Piccinino, and is described by Paolo Morigia in his La nobilit di Milano of 1595 as being heir to his father's secrets 'in that he is equally very highly regarded in his profession and having himself held the lead in the fashioning of blades'. He also says that he was still alive in 1595 (see J.G. Mann and A.V.B. Norman, Wallace Collection Catalogues. European Arms and Armour and Supplement, London, 1962 and 1986, inv. no. A 646).

The Vienna 1990 catalogue states that this rapier was described by O. von Leber (Wiens kaiserliches Zeughaus, Leipzig, 1846, p. 108), but the description is of another sword with what is probably the grip fitted to the present rapier.

More from The Collection of Barons Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild

View All
View All