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Cup hilt sword frantopino

Italian swordsmith master

Northern Italy, 17th century

Material: Forged and chiseled iron

Size: 122 cm long

Review by Gherardo Turchi

A splendid specimen of a sword made with engraved mountings and a cup hilt finely chiseled, manufactured in one of those flourishing workshops active in Milan over the second half of the seventeenth century.

Typical of the Mameluke army, the cup hilt sword took off in Italy, as well as in a large part of southern Europe, from the mid-seventeenth century, when the Turkish Empire was taking control of a great part of the Mediterranean. This weapon was made of a thin and flexible blade, with some mountings overlapped and made of a big sword-guard, straight stops joined by a handguard starting from the hollow of the blade and almost touching the pommel.

A great creative impulse in the decoration of this type of mountings came from the past, specifically from the decorations of the sixteenth-century armors on which the etching engravings showed racemes and leafy spirals designed to embellish the defensive suits. The same vegetal decorations were taken up in the making of the cup hilt fretworks, as well as in the decorations of the knobs.

Milan, Brescia, and Naples were masters in the making of this type of weapon. This work belongs to the Milanese production of swords. With a cup hilt engraved and chiseled with leafy volutes, which continue on the pommel and the outer flap to form a stylistic continuum, the sword gets a “frantopino” blade, which undoubtedly places this work as a Milanese forged one.In effect, in Milan, swordsmen were the first ones to mount this type of blades on their cup hilt swords, appreciating their undoubted qualities, while in Brescia and Naples it happened only twenty years later, never widely using such blades, however. The frantopino, also known as francopino or colichemarde, was a type of blade mounted on foot soldiers swords in the fifteenth century, then taken up in the mid-seventeenth century and widely used in France and Italy in the eighteenth century on-court small swords. With a wide and two edges flat blade at the tang and on its first part, then abruptly narrowed and continued “in verduco” – from the Spanish term verdugo – a sword cutting on four sides –  like a long and sharp stiletto, the sword with this type of blade could be used both to hit edgeways and to wound with the point.Today there are few known examples of seventeenth-century swords with a Colichemard blade, a feature that places this weapon in that field of weapons particularly sought after in the antique market. This work is in an excellent state of conservation, with no restorations or replacements.

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