The Wallace Collection

A595 detail
A595 detail
Treasure of the Month - June 2012

An English Rapier c. 1610-20

This exceptional rapier is a fine demonstration of distinctive English design, both in terms of its construction and its decoration.

The composition of the elegant ‘swept’ hilt is typical of high-quality English work of the early 17th century. The style is characterised by the remarkable hollow pommel, forged out of a single piece of iron and displaying coiling volutes; a small number of other English swords showing the same features survive in other museum collections, including those at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum in Glasgow and the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. The guard, in keeping with the style of the pommel, takes the especially graceful form of a curling scroll, while the other bars of the hilt swirls fluidly around the hand.

The rich, fire-gilded hilt has been skilfully chiselled with masks, scrolls, drapery and trophies in the typical English fashion. These motifs, treated in a closely comparable way are also found on English firearms and crossbows of the same period.

The blade, like many in England at that time, is a German import from the great bladesmithing city of Solingen. The maker’s marks on the ricasso or base of the blade appear to be those of a Jaspar Bongen, a swordsmith, or possibly a father and son both working in that same vocation, thought to have been active in Solingen c. 1620.

Gallery Talks
Am English Rapier, Tuesday the 12th and Tuesday the 26th of June at 1pm: Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour.

Further Reading
Norman, A.V.B., Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour Supplement (London: The Wallace Collection, 1986), p. 137-8.

Mann, Sir James, Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour (London: The Wallace Collection, 1962), pp. 301-2, pl. 116.