The Wallace Collection

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A708,  A Scimitar of King Henri II of France, Made by Daniele da Serravalle of Milan, c.1550-60.
A708, A Scimitar of King Henri II of France, Made by Daniele da Serravalle of Milan, c.1550-60.
Treasure of the Month - March 2014

A Scimitar of King Henri II of France, Made by Daniele da Serravalle of Milan c. 1550-60

The maker’s marks on the curved blade of this royal sword, the initials ‘DS’ and a stamp comprised of an ‘M’ below a crown, indicate that it was made by Daniele da Serravalle, a great Milanese master, probably between 1550 and 1560. Such exotic arms seem to have been one of Daniele’s specialities; ‘9 scimitarre’ are listed in a 1567 inventor of his workshop. The hilt has been pierced, chiselled, and inlaid with gold, forming a decorative scheme involving a very complicated arrangement of horsemen, crowns, and pseudo-Classical figures, while the strapwork on the pommel has been carefully arranged to form King Henri’s personal ‘H’ monogram.

The curved blade is decorated over its whole length on each side with false-damascening in gold forming delicate scrolling vines framed within a dashed and dotted border. Such blade decoration was unusual in the extreme, emphasising the exotic nature of the piece. Although a perfectly practical fighting tool, King Henri probably only wore the sword as a costume accessory, perhaps for some important parade or political event, if indeed it was finished and presented to him before his unexpected death. In 1559 he was accidently killed in a joust at Paris, held to celebrate the end of his war with the German Empire.

 

Gallery Talks

A Scimitar of King Henri II of France, Monday the 3rd and Monday the 17th of March at 1pm: Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour.

Further Reading

Capwell, Tobias, The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe 1520-1630 (London: Paul Holberton, 2012), p. 77.

Capwell, Tobias, Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour in the Wallace Collection (London: Paul Holberton, 2011), pp. 108-9.

Norman, A.V.B., Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour Supplement (London: The Wallace Collection, 1986), pp. 159-160.

Mann, Sir James, Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour (London: The Wallace Collection, 1962), p. 360, pl. 131.