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Italian Armorer

Northern Italy Seventeenth century

Material: Forged iron and horn


review by gherardo turchi

Ancient bomber dagger known as “centoventi” (120) made in one of those flourishing workshops of master armourers active in Veneto during the first half of the Seventeenth century.

The name “centoventi” (120) identifies a dagger with a triangular blade of which one side is marked by notches and numbers from 1 to 120, a unit of measurement usually used to measure the caliber of cannon balls and the diameter of cannons. Weapon usually used by bombers in northern Italy in the early Seventeenth century, the “centoventi” (120) was a weapon widely used in battlefields due to its multiple use: it could be used to open gunpowder packets, clean up the inside of the cannons after use or more simply could be a weapon for hand-to-hand fights. Being made with a triangular blade, it was in fact considered a deadly weapon since the wound inflicted by this type of blade was not immediately suturable, thus guaranteeing the victim a death sentence. Another less known use of this versatile weapon was that of inserting it in a cannon and broken inside; this practice was carried out by the retreating troops when they abandoned the artillery in the field, so as not to allow the use by the enemy garrisons of their own cannons which, otherwise, could have turned into enemy fire during the escape.

The grip is made of horn, worked in baluster sections with small inlaid bone spheres designed to embellish the weapon. The work presents two small lathe-made quillons, while the smooth pommel has the classic olive shape. The ricasso is forged with a baluster shape and ends with a squared shape at the base of the quillons.

The specimen is in a good state of preservation and represents a significant addition to the documentation of war equipment used by the Italian armies of the Seventeenth century.

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